Summary: God demands true faith, true repentance, true worship, not the outward show of 'religiosity'
2 Timothy 3: 1-9
Christmas has long gone
and 2014 is no longer the 'New' year.
Paul wrote his 2nd 'Pastoral' Letter to Timothy around AD66/67.
The church was fairly 'new'
as it was only 30 years or so after Pentecost,
but it was not so 'new' that it was 'Pristine' or undefiled.
Already, by the time Paul was enduring imprisonment for the 2nd time
under the evil Roman emperor Nero,
Paul had reason to be concerned about the purity of God's message
and the purity of God's people
as many had fallen away
and false teachers 'inspired' by false spirits
kept springing up all around.
The days seem to fly by and soon we will be celebrating Easter
and the Resurrection of Our Lord
and then, God willing,
we will enjoy the Summer months.
We are in the ‘last days’
but no one knows how long this dispensation will last
and only a fool makes predictions about it.
Whenever it does happen every knee shall bow;
ours gladly and in adoration;
unbelievers in fear and dread of the Judgement they are about to face.
Until then we know there will be ‘difficult times’ for believers
and many will fall away, as many already have.
We see the things mentioned in verses 2, 3 and 4 around us every day,
in our shops, in our schools, on TV, even in our own homes.
Verse 5 is particularly appropriate at this time.
To paraphrase verse 5: ‘In the last days, people will be lovers of themselves …
(and) … have a form of godliness, but will deny its power.’
This is a recurring theme in the Bible:
for example in Hosea 5:3 and 4:
‘I know all about Ephraim’ says the Lord, ‘Israel is corrupt’
and ‘A spirit of prostitution is in their heart’
and Amos in 5:21-23 the Lord says:
‘I hate, I despise your religious feasts.
Though you bring choice offerings, I will have no regard for them.
Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.’
And Jesus himself came down hard on many of the Jews,
calling them ‘hypocrites’ many times,
for example 3 times in Matthew chapter 6, once in Matthew 15,
In these latter days, many will deny ‘religion’ altogether.
At least they are being honest.
Many who call themselves ‘Christians’,
probably because they were ‘Christened’,
even though they have rarely been to church since then;
will hold to the outward form of religion
but reject its real power;
either not believing in Almighty God,
or that Jesus was - and is - His son;
nor in the Holy Spirit,
and certainly not prepared to believe or admit
that they are sinners heading for a lost eternity
unless they come to Christ repenting of their sins.
No matter how ‘religious’ or ‘Christian’
many people in this country appear or seek to appear,
if it is only external then God is not impressed.
If inwardly, if really, they are unbelievers, putting on a show,
then that one hour every now and again spent sitting in a church
will not make any difference
to where they spend eternity.
In 2nd Timothy Paul tells us to avoid the type of people
he lists in chapter 3 verses 1-9
but this does not mean we should close our doors
to those who only come to church at Christmas or Easter,
if even then,
and tell them they are hypocrites.
No, if faith comes through hearing
then we must welcome them in so they hear the Gospel,
repent of their sins,
trust in Jesus Christ
and take their long-ago-prepared place among God's Elect.
In Proverbs 5:21 we read:
‘A man’s ways are in full view of the LORD
and He examines all his paths’.
In other words He watches everything everyone does
and He knows whether what we do,
what anyone does,
is genuine, or for show.
He knows those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth
every day, not just on Sundays or special days,
and He knows those who just want to look or ‘feel’ Christian.
Scripture makes it clear that God hates the outward show of religion,
empty rituals and sacrifices,
‘show’ rather than ‘substance’.
He deserves, and demands, true worship,
true praise and exaltation,
not mere lip service,
and every day, not just one per weerk
or in many cases less than that.
But this does mean we should look down on, or turn away,
those who come to church
even if it just for that one day,
but see their visit as an opportunity to witness to them,
present the facts of the Gospel and their condition before God,