Friday, December 18, 2009

Are We There Yet?

If you have children and you have had the unique experience of moving those children from point A to point B, the distance of which only need be slightly more than say 20-30 minutes, then you have no doubt had the pleasure of experiencing this question: "Are we there yet?" And once it begins, it seems to flow, as if scientifically timed, every 2 minutes until in fact, we are finally there.

As I read Paul's last instructions to the young pastor Timothy, I admit I find myself asking this very same question: "Are we there yet?" And I do believe we are clearly there. Beginning in Chapter three of his final written work, Paul issues a most ominous prediction to young Timothy. Paul warns Timothy that "difficult times will come." The Greek word diffcult is CHELPOS and it means that which causes hardship and trouble. Paul issues this warning and then he explains himself with the epexegetical "for" which connects this prediction to the foreseen condition which he is about to describe. The reason troubling and difficult times are coming is because the condition of men will reach the state which immediately follows.

First, men will be lovers of themselves. They will look out for numero uno. We know that people in our culture practice this all the time. People go out of their way, mostly because it is actually self-serving. They do not do it out of a pure love of others. There is mostly (not always) an angle to be worked. You be the judge, are we there yet?

Second, men will be lovers of money. Man cannot serve God and money for he will either love the one and hate the other. The same is true of loving self of course. We must die so that He can live through us.

Men will be boastful. And wow, are we! While I didn't verbalize it, I was proud of how patient I was while Christmas shopping. What is the difference? Being too impatent or being prideful? They are both sinful behaviors. But we have a way of making some sins worse than others and looking down on people who commit the ones we hold out as worse and think more highly of ourselves because we avoid the ones we deem to be unacceptable. I have news for you: God sees all sin equally as filth and it all smells the same to Him. If we are guilty of one, we are guilty of all. A boastful person is one who is pretentiously prideful and braggs about it. They are constantly bragging about their accomplishments and failing to notice anyone else's. If you get two boastful people together, you won't be able to get a word in edgewise because they will continually be trying to one-up each other on their accomplishments. Are we there yet?

Men will be arrogant. An arrogant person is one who thinks of himself or herself as being superior to others. They look down and talk down on others for a variety of reasons. It could be because the person doesn't have just the right job, the right education, the right family background, earn the right amount of money, etc. We attached significance to things that God does not. And then we aquire them and look down on those who don't.

Men will be revilers. The word revile is BLASPHEMOS and it means defaming, demeaing, and denigrating. It is blasphemy quite plain and simple. When you think of this behavior, it is the one behavior that dominates comedic entertainment today. We amuse ourselves by being blasphemous. And Christians fill their minds and spirits with this filth in the name of Christian liberty and think grace looks past it.

Men will be disobedient to parents. Do I really need to comment on this one?

Do you think we there yet?

Men will be ungrateful. Buy your child a car and they want a 30k BMW. Give a man a job and he is not satisfied with a paycheck. He wants power or more, or you name it. We are ungrateful! We cannot stand the slightest disappointment in our lives without having a nervous breakdown. This is a clear indication that we are ungrateful. Take a teenager's cell phone away for one day and you will see what I mean.

Men will be unholy. One of the most vilified doctrines in the church today is the doctrine of holiness. It is ipso facto dismissed as legalism. The effort in science around evolution is designed to get rid of the holy demand of a righteous God. The effort in hermeneutics around deconstructionism and post-modernism is to remove the oversight of a God who demands holiness from His subjects. Are we there yet?

Men will be unloving. And how! as Spanky from the little rascals would say.  The Greek word is ASTORGOS and it means of one who is lacking in good feeling for others, thereby jeopardizing the maintenance of relationships that are essential to a well-ordered society; hardhearted, unfeeling, without regard for others. Someone once said the Christian church is the only organism that kills its own wounded. And this appears to be true. An absence of love for one's brother indicates an absence of love for God. Sorry, you can't have your cake and eat it too. I cannot hate you and love God. Nor can you hate me and love God. And I cannot love you with my mouth only and hate you with my heart and love God at the same time. It simply doesn't work that way. Are we there yet?

Men will be irreconcilable. The Greek word is ASPONDOS. It means one who is unwilling to negotiate a solution to a problem involving a second party. This will be the disposition of sinful men in the last days. They will have a spirit so hard and determined that they are unwilling to work toward a resolution in order to solve problems. Problems are unavoidable. The question is how we respond to them. What causes us to stiffen our will and refuse to even work toward a solution? It is our sinful nature along with its extreme demands. We insist on having our way and refuse to consider a different perspective. I have lived this one personally. Christians are not ummune to these behaviors. At least this Christian is not immune to this sin. We would prefer to indulge our flesh rather than be sensitive to our spouse's worries about the potential conseqences of leading an unhealthy lifestyle. Are we there yet?

Men will be malicious gosssips. The Greek word is DIABOLOS. It pertains to one who is engaged in slander. Never, ever speak ill of your brother or sister in Christ. If you have an issue with someone, you are supposed to go to that person in love and be reconciled to them. It is the only way to handle matters of dispute and offense. But before you go to the alleged offender, you should ask yourself this question: "should I have an issue with this person?" Make sure you are justified in approaching your brother or sister over the matter at hand. Examine your motives and be sure you are not going to them because they bruised your blown up ego or violated something that is on your personal sin-list and not God's. Do not speak evil of another person behind their back. And certainly do not pretend to know someone's motives and then speak evil of them. This is not loving, Christ-like behavior. We have become far too comfortable and too complacent in our slanderous remarks of fellow believers in the Christian community. I am not saying that you should never name names because that, too, is unbiblical. There is a time and a place for sharp rebuke. But it is one of the highest offenses to God for a brother or sister in Christ to engage in the personal assassination of another brother or sister's character behind their back. If you believe someone is in sin, you have a responsbility to go to them in love and help them see their sin and help them out of their error. If you don't have enough love for Christ and for His body to do that, then you should keep you mouth shut for you are absolutely not the least bit better than the one caught up in the sin. Moreover, your actions may be worse than your brothers actions. He may be acting in blindness, not realizing what he is doing. God placed you in a position to help him see his sin, and instead, you watch him drown, criticizing him for not being able to swim all the while standing on the life jacket he needs to be saved.  Here is the bottom line: those who choose to talk about people behind their back rather than go to them in love, as Christ commanded, showing them their error, are cowards of the worse sort. These are the same cowards who criticize people who do confront and help others out of their sin, accusing them of being overly crticial and unloving. There is hardly anything less loving than knowing your brother or sister is in trouble, and refusing to lift a finger to help. What is worse; withholding physical needs or withholding spiritual needs? You decide; are we there yet?
These are not so much general sins as they are specific sins visible every day in Ephesus as Timothy deals with the false teachers who wear a veneer of piety but by their sin show that there is no substance, no power, to their religiosity. [William Mounce: The Pastoral Epistles, pg. 551]
As it was the design of Paul to brand false prophets with such marks, that they might be seen and known by all; it is our duty to open our eyes, that we may see those who are pointed out with the finger. [John Calvin: Commentary on 2 Timothy, pg. 239]
To be sure this passage describes false teachers who would come to Ephesus teaching and preaching damnable heresies and exhibiting behavior that is in every way inconsistent with the Christian worldview. We must recognize these behaviors in those sorts of teachers and respond accordingly. Secondly, we should also recognize that our own sin nature, as obstinate as it is, has its own proclivity toward some of these behaviors. Let us be on guard to keep ourselves unsoiled from the love of this world and the service of sinful flesh.
Part II to follow within the week.

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