Summary: How can we spot a religious impostor? What does God think of shallow religion?
Purpose: To describe what false teachers look like.
Aim: I want the listener to be alert to false teaching and turn away from it.
INTRODUCTION: Sunflowers are fascinating. These large flowers actually follow the sun from sunrise to sunset. I remember seeing a whole field of them once, when I was living in South Carolina. No matter what time of day you drive by them, their faces are pointed directly at the sun. Watching hundreds of them do this in absolute unison is actually quite incredible.
I read recently that Sunflowers continue to track where the sun long after it sets. When the sun rises the next morning, the sunflower is already pointing toward the sun.
In the first nine verses of this chapter, Paul is pointing out that many in the world are not really in line with the Creator. In verses 1-4 we saw evil as it really is, so we could see it in all of its ugliness. Today, in verses 5-9 we will see what religious imposters look like when their masks are removed.
1:1-2:13 I. How Should a Christian React to Stress?
2:14-26 II. How Should a Christian Relate to Fellow Believers?
3:1-17 III. How Can a Christian Reside in a Hostile Culture?
Vs.1 A. See the big picture
1. Jesus may come at any time “in the last days”
2. Serving Christ is hard “difficult times will come”
Vs.2-4 B. Identify evil
Vs.5-9 C. Identify religious impostors
I think that verse 13 makes it clear that Paul has two groups of people in mind here:
2 Timothy 3:13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (NAU)
Vs.5 1. An imposter’s character
✔ Imposters have religious activity that is not connected to a living relationship with Jesus Christ.
a. They love to look religious “form of godliness”
“Form” refers to an outward shape or appearance. They put style over substance. These are religious leaders who are attractive on the outside, but are morally bankrupt on the inside.
Listen to what Jesus said about them: Matthew 23:25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. (NAU)
b. They ignore the Gospel “denied its power”
Romans 1:16-17 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” (NAU)
Matthew 7:15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s [shepherd’s] clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (NAU)
2 Thessalonians 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. (NAU)
What does God think of religion that does not produce holiness?
☛ Isaiah 1:10-18 10 Hear the word of the Lord, You rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the instruction of our God, You people of Gomorrah. 11 “What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?” Says the Lord. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle; And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats. 12 “When you come to appear before Me, Who requires of you this trampling of My courts? 13 “Bring your worthless offerings no longer, Incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies— I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. 14 “I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, They have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 “So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood. 16 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, 17 Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow. 18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, [Remember: God is talking to the super religious] “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool. (NAU)