Monday, October 6, 2014

LAST DAYS LIVING (2 Timothy Chapter 3)

2 Timothy 3:1, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty…”

We ought not to be surprised by what we hear about in the news regarding the troubling things that go on in the world.  Paul warned Timothy two millennia ago of what lay ahead.  The phrase “last days” translates the Greek eschatos from which the word “eschatology” is derived.  Eschatology is the study of things related to the final events associated with God’s relationship to His creation.  The word translated “difficulty” means “hard to bear, troublesome, hard, and perilous.”  In spite of God’s provision of a Savior, mankind’s general spiritual condition in this age will inevitably decline.  There can be no utopia on earth.  No amount of secular intervention or provision can work to undo the sin problem which lies at the heart of all of man’s troubles.  Mankind’s rebellion against God inevitably leads to times of trouble.

The list of vices in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 is comparable to other such lists (Cf. Romans 1:28-32; Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Timothy 1:9-10).  These vices speak to the attitudes and activities to which man will inevitably gravitate apart from God’s intervention.  In Adam all have inherited a sin nature (Cf. Romans 5:12, 3:23).  The “heart (of man) is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9).  Men sin because they are born that way (Cf. Colossians 1:21; Ephesians 2:1-3).  Only Jesus can work to forgive us and change us (Cf. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11).  The list begins and ends with references to misplaced love—“lovers of self, lovers of money…lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:2, 4).  The last days will be characterized by people’s misguided devotion to things other than God.  The entire passage speaks to evil nature of a godless society which is, by definition, one having no place for God.  In place of love for God are love for “self” (2 Timothy 3:2), “money” (2 Timothy 3:2”), and “pleasure” (2 Timothy 3:4).  Such desires characterize the days in which we live.  These pursuits govern its thinking and way of life.  “Whatever makes you feel good” trumps all other concerns.  Seemingly every store has a lottery and lotteries make big money because people love money.  There is even a magazine called “Self.”  The problem is that we were not created to invest our lives in such things, we were created to know and love the One who created us.  To set off on our own course, divorced from the Creator’s plan and purpose, is a recipe for moral catastrophe.  Those who do not love God are also those “not loving good” (2 Timothy 3:3).  The remaining vices listed speak to the attitudes and actions that prevail in hearts and lives when a people have no love for God or what is good.

How is a person to navigate through the countless difficulties associated with such a day?  What means could possibly work to keep a person on a “God-ward” course in such a “god-less” environment?  The godly person in such a climate will undoubtedly face persecution (Cf. 2 Timothy 3:12).  What can help a person to stay the course when the going gets tough? 

Paul’s admonished Timothy to continue in what he had learned (Cf. 2 Timothy 3:14).  From childhood he had been taught from the Scriptures (Cf. 2 Timothy 3:15).  It is those sacred writings which “are able to make (a person) wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (Cf. 2 Timothy 3:15).  The Bible is unlike any other book, it is God’s word to us.  It represents that which has been “breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16).  It is the inspired Word of God and is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).  With respect to the way of righteousness, God’s word works to direct us in that path.  It “teaches” us and outlines to us the pathway of right living (that which meets with God’s approval).  It “reproves” us when we wander from the path reminding us that we have strayed.  It “corrects” us instructing us in what we must do to get back onto the path.  It “trains” us so that we might stay on the path and headed in the right direction.

The Bible is elsewhere said to be a light to our feet and a lamp to our path (Cf. Psalm 119:105).  In darkness it is difficult to find one’s way apart from the provision of light from some external source.  God’s word is that light to us in the midst of this present darkness.  How are we to distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil, truth and falsehood?  How are we to know if a thing is in fact pleasing unto God?  What will work to help us to stay the course on the narrow path that leads to life when everyone else is headed in a different direction?  God’s inspired and profitable Word alone can do that.  We will “do well to pay attention” to it “as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your heart” (2 Peter 1:19).  Living in the last days demands of us a careful devotion to the Word of God and adherence to that which it teaches.  It has been said to represent to us Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.  In these last days we need to pay careful attention to them!

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