Monday, April 28, 2008

Paul Instructs Timothy - Part 9

Paul next brings up people who are “fierce” and are defined by Webster as being “furious, violent, unrestrained…ready or eager to kill or injure, and of a nature to inspire terror.” Those who possess this trait are often incontinent, without natural affection, and lovers of self. I hate it when the reputation of the “church” is marred by those claiming to be “Christian” who use warped reasoning to defend their actions—i.e., the church group from Kansas that has picketed the funerals of those killed in the war in Iraq and individuals who have murdered doctors who perform abortions. When the “church” capitulates to using terror tactics as a means of promoting its message, it will have become a false religion on par with the fanatic followers of Islam today.

“Despisers of those that are good” or “hostility to those who are virtuous” as defined in the Greek is identified as another dominating characteristics of the last days. It used to be that this definition could in no way be connected to those in the “church,” but that is no longer the case today. This is due in large part because they have redefined what is good and virtuous due to their rejection of the inerrancy and truth of God’s word and destroyed our moral foundation in the process. The scripture defines what is good.

Mic. 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

We have no problem embracing the first two, but to embrace the last requires that we accept as true God’s will as revealed in His word. You can’t walk “with” someone unless you are choosing to fellowship with him as you journey toward the same destination in unity of spirit.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Paul Instructs Timothy - Part 8

“Trucebreakers” are next on the list. This characteristic describes those who do not keep their word regarding promises or agreements. It is a trait that shows lack of respect for others and gives evidence of selfishness. It used to be that a man’s word was his bond, but that no longer applies to our society today. Again, this is a trait that has infiltrated the “church” as well. We seem to operate on the premise that appointments are made to be broken, and we justify our lack of commitment by making excuses that often boil down to lack of self-discipline or personal priorities and lack of consideration for the victim of our lack of dependability.

Paul next identifies “false accusers” or those who slander the reputations of others. How descriptive is that of a people who thrive on publications like “The Enquirer.” This trait, along with most others, again stems from our sense of pride and selfishness. It is fed by our insatiable appetite for gossip. I am ashamed to admit that even in the “Christian” organizations in which I have been associated, gossip is just as prevalent as anywhere else—always presented from a pure motive of concern or wanting to share a prayer need. I wish I had learned much earlier that it’s just as harmful to listen as well as to share. It is also a result of our moral foundation no longer being based on God’s word. It’s part of the mentality embraced in the saying, “All is fair in love and war” [and politics].

Incontinence, or lack of self-control, is next on the list. Again, this trait is interrelated to other traits in this list. It is vividly evidenced by all the high profile crimes involving the infidelities of politicians and other famous people, the unbelievable murders of random victims for perceived injustices, and the undeniable success of the marketing of pornographic materials. In Christendom it is on prominent display in churches that have fallen for the deception of the enemy regarding “new” manifestations of the Spirit.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Paul Instructs Timothy - Part 7

The next characteristic Paul addresses is that of being “unthankful.” The Greek defines this as being ungrateful, which I immediately connect to rudeness and taking kindness from others for granted. Webster gave some further insight; he included “making ill return for kindness”—in other words, responding to kindness by being unkind.

Next on the list is being “unholy” or wicked. Those who are wicked have totally rejected the morals established by God’s law. Webster even uses the phrase “addicted to sin” to define this characteristic. They take joy in hurting others. We live in a culture of people who are addicted to so many things, many of which are a result of their dependence on self and/or other men. This has infiltrated the church as well as the world. Scripture is clear that we are to be dependent upon God for everything. When we seek His wisdom first, He will provide for us according to His will and will sometimes use others in making that provision. I remember a verse in Chronicles jumping out at me as I was reading through the scripture one day.

2Chr. 16:12 And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the LORD, but to the physicians.

Obviously, the Lord wasn’t stating that it was wrong to utilize doctors. It stood out to me, however, that it is wrong to place one’s faith in doctors over and above one’s faith in God.

The list goes on, and being “without natural affection” is next. The Greek made specific reference to being hard-hearted toward your relatives. It seems to follow in natural progression from disobedience, ingratitude and wickedness. The news of the last several years has been full of stories of husbands killing wives, wives killing children, children abusing parents, and parents abusing children. I frankly don’t remember these types of stories as a child and young adult. I’m sure there were random instances of those types of things, but they certainly didn’t dominate the news as they do today. Again, the news includes accounts of professing “Christians” who kill and abuse their families.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Paul Instructs Timothy - Part 6

The next two characteristics on the list are boasting and pride; they go hand in glove. This type of pride is an exaggerated estimation of self in any area. It’s an attitude that lifts self up as it puts others down. Those with such an exaggerated sense of self are prone to boast about their deeds and accomplishments with the same exaggeration. Politicians come to my mind immediately, but that’s because their boasting is all over the news. The truth is that these characteristics have become more prevalent in the church since the onset of “Christian” television and the growth of megachurches. Add these traits to loving self and covetousness and you have the motivation for many false teachers joining the ranks of “Christian” leadership.

Paul next warns Timothy that blasphemy will be on the increase in the last days. Blasphemy includes showing irreverence toward God in word or action. There is no denying the loud and even angry voices of outspoken atheists in their attack on God and His word today. There is no denying that God’s name is profaned daily without repercussion in the entertainment industry, society in general and even by Christians. I cringe every time I hear the phrase “O my God.”

The next identifying sign Paul mentions is “disobedience to parents.” Again, all of these signs have been around through the years, but the continued increase of their domination in society cannot be denied. Just in my lifetime children and teens have come to embrace the idea that parents “owe” them and to be characterized more and more by attitudes of disrespect and defiance. Children are aware of their “rights” under the law and many use that understanding to intimidate and manipulate their parents. On the other hand, many parents feed that mentality by refusing to let their children suffer the consequences of sin. By undermining the authority of teachers and school administrators, they are undermining the respect their children develop for all people in authority—including themselves. This is not just a commentary on public education. I worked as the office manager in a Christian high school for years, and many parents wanted to intercede for their children rather than let them learn from their mistakes by suffering the consequences for wrongdoing.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Paul Instructs Timothy - Part 5

Now we’ll move on to address the signs of the times given in Paul’s second letter to Timothy.

2Tim. 3:1-7 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

Although there may be some overlapping of truth already presented, I am going to address each issue as it is presented. The context seems to be referencing humanity in general with special attention to those in the “church,” giving the appearance of godliness but contradicting or denying God in the process. Paul introduces his list of prophecies concerning last days to Timothy by describing them as “perilous times.” I thought it was interesting to note that the Greek defined “perilous” as “reducing the strength, difficult.” That was quite enlightening to me regarding how these characteristics would impact the “church.”

First on Paul’s list is the fact that men will be lovers of themselves. I’m probably going to be repeating this mantra several times—but this is a dominant characteristic of today’s society. In America I believe the focus turned to self in a big way in the sixties. One of the most popular buzz phrases from the sixties was, “If it feels good, do it.” And the importance of looking out for number one has only continued to grow as a priority in people’s lives since then.

It’s interesting that covetousness is next on the list because it goes hand-in-hand with a selfish mentality. “Keeping up with the Joneses” has been a cultural mindset for years. It was interesting to note that the Greek made reference to being avaricious or greedy. Many people define success in life by how much money they make and the quantity and quality of the “things” they possess.

I think both characteristics are also prime motives behind many crimes. Rapists, thieves and even murders are a result of people choosing to do whatever it takes to bring pleasure to self without regard to the person(s) they are victimizing. I am reminded of the recent murder of the talented coed in North Carolina who was killed by a couple of punks out to get a few bucks to feed their selfish desires and the murder of the little girl in Florida by a pervert bent on fulfilling the lust of his flesh; and these are only a couple of incidents that represent far more by other punks, perverts and profligates all across the planet.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Paul Instructs Timothy - Part 4

The newest movement in Christendom today is the emerging church. One of the most disturbing characteristics of those who embrace this movement is that they question the authority and inerrancy of God’s word. Once the scriptural foundation of our faith is placed on the shifting sand of man’s wisdom rather than the firm rock of God’s truth and authority as declared in His word, the door is open for every type of heresy to gain a foothold in Christendom. From the reading I’ve done, many also embrace universalism or the idea that God is going to eventually redeem all of creation in the end. That is in direct opposition to the Lord’s declaration that He is “the way, the truth and the life” and “no man comes to the Father, but by me.” They are teaching people to participate in the mystical practices of eastern religions in order to experience a more intimate connection with God, and there is absolutely no scriptural basis for such teaching. They place far more emphasis on experience than the truth of scripture. It is a human weakness to want to believe what we see and/or experience. The truth is that what we see and/or experience can be deceiving.

It is really amazing to me that those who are declaring such heresy are still identified with the “church,” but according to scripture, I shouldn’t be surprised at all. It is a fulfillment of prophecy happening right before our eyes.

Paul also warned Timothy that there would be some in the church who would forbid marriage. Thankfully, this is not a teaching that is part of even the most liberal parts of Christendom at this time (except, of course, regarding the Catholic Church’s requirements for nuns and priests). But as people are taught to question the authority and integrity of the word of God, the foundation is being laid.

Although not applicable in context of the scripture being discussed, I’d like to make another observation. Society in general has already embraced living together outside of marriage as acceptable. As more pastors choose to address their congregations on a seeker-sensitive platform, the more likely this lifestyle will become a normal part of the church community because these pastors don’t confront people with their sin. Essentially, it will result in “forbidding” marriage by accepting living outside of marriage as the norm. According to a November 2003 article by The Barna Group, 49% of adults who claim to be “born again” Christians consider living with someone outside of marriage as morally acceptable; the ratio increases to an overall 60% for all adults—and we know that those figures are only going to continue to climb.

The last topic Paul introduced was that some would declare that it is wrong to eat some foods, and God has declared that any food can be eaten with thanks to God for His provision.

The enemy is smart enough to realize that he will be much more successful if the introduction of his false doctrine is gradual and subtle. The social gospel being preached and the inclusion of adherence to certain laws are just subtle forms of embracing salvation by works instead of grace. Scripture is clear that salvation is a gift of God’s grace.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Paul Instructs Timothy - Part 3

Why do the devil and his demons choose to masquerade as angels of light? Because they know that the most effective way to limit the effectiveness of God’s word is to get people to accept a perverted presentation of its truth. When the “church” can be convinced that the primary focus of ministry should be to help the poor and minister to the needy, it has taken a big step toward promoting salvation by works. The primary focus of the church is to share the gospel message by equipping and growing the saints through the teaching of scripture and to join in unified praise and worship of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The “church” exists primarily to minister to the needs of the body of believers—not the needs of unbelievers.

1Cor. 14:12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.

Eph. 4:11-16 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

When the church is effective in accomplishing its primary objectives, the natural fruit produced from that ministry will be that of winning souls through the spread of the gospel and producing hearts that are ready and willing to provide for the poor and needy and share the love of God and the gospel message with those that do not know Him. Believers will be responding to the love of God through the leading of the Holy Spirit; it will be a response rooted in their salvation, not work done to qualify them for salvation.

The Lord was clear in stating that our love for one another in the body of Christ is key to an effective witness to the lost and confirmation of the truth of our message.

John 13:35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

1Pet. 1:22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:

1John 3:23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.

We can’t expect to show the love of Christ to others if we can’t show it to one another. In fact, if we profess faith in God but do not love each other, it is a sign that we are hypocrites.

1John 3:10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.

1John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.

1John 4:7-8 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

1John 4:20-21 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Paul Instructs Timothy - Part 2

It’s interesting to note that in the section of scripture from Matthew (see previous post) that Jesus doesn’t refute the fact that these “professing” believers have prophesied, cast out demons and performed wonderful works. In his letter to the Corinthians Paul informs us that Satan and his ministers parade as angels of light.

2Cor. 11:13-15 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

I’m not sure how many “true” believers today realize that Satan and his forces have supernatural powers although limited according to God’s established parameters. We recognize that the scripture tells us of the abilities of the magicians of Pharaoh and how Satan was allowed to utilize supernatural abilities in the temptation of Job, but we tend to relegate that to ancient history. God has not yet taken away Satan’s ability to utilize supernatural powers. I think we would be surprised to know just how many tragedies in the lives of believers in particular occur because of Satanic instigation. Paul was very clear in telling the Thessalonians that the Antichrist would be able to perform “lying wonders.”

2Th. 2:8-9 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders….

I have not done a study of Timothy yet, and this exercise is clarifying my understanding of the things I see happening in the church today. The airwaves are loaded with teachers who declare themselves in love with the Lord, yet their ministries are constantly drawing attention to self and perverting God’s word to deceive and fleece the flock.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Paul Instructs Timothy re Last Days

In both of Paul’s letters to Timothy he addressed traits that would characterize humanity in the time preceding Jesus’ return to earth. I’ll begin with the teaching from his first letter to Timothy.

1Timothy 4:1-3 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

I think one of the first things to note in this section of scripture is that Paul is instructing Timothy regarding problems he will encounter in ministry to the “church,” all those who profess their faith in Jesus as Lord. Scripture is clear in telling us that not all who profess Jesus as Lord actually possess or yield to Him as Lord.

Matthew 7:21-23 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Considering the scripture from both Timothy and Matthew, it would seem that in the last days there will be an increase in the number of people in Christendom who will separate themselves from people of true faith. Faith is an unwavering confidence in the truth of God and His word. As time for the return of Jesus approaches, the moral convictions of professing Christians will become more aligned with accepted cultural morals. They will not hold firm to the truth of faith in Christ Jesus as the only way to salvation. They will not hold fast to the whole of scripture as the inspired word of God.

Paul goes on to explain that seducing spirits and doctrines of devils will be responsible for this departure from the faith. Obviously these seducing spirits are utilizing human beings that are masquerading as followers of Jesus. What they expound as truth is actually the perverted teaching of demons. They are hypocrites who pretend virtue and a reverence and love of God, but they are actually serving self. They are so convincing because their conscience has been totally desensitized; Paul uses the Greek word from which we get our word for cauterize. This seared conscience goes hand in hand with a hard heart. These people are impervious to guilt or shame.