Expository preaching from 2 Timothy 3:2b-4, delivered June 11th, 2017
2 Timothy 3
1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 9 But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.
We continue today through the long list of sinful behaviors and attitudes that Paul lays out for us in this book. You might say, “Can’t we talk about something else? Do we really have to spend all this time talking about sin? There are so many other uplifting topics and truths in the Bible, can’t we go there and enjoy them?” Yes, there are many uplifting topics and truths in the Bible, that is for sure. The Lord Jesus Christ has come and He is redeeming many people, He is coming again and will take His loved ones on to spend eternity with Him forever. That is a glorious truth and uplifting thought for sure, and there are many other such truths.
But there are at least three reasons why we will spend time in passages like the one we are in this morning, where there is a focus on sin.
First of all, we will spend time talking about sin – not all the time, but some time – because God spends time talking to us about sin in the Bible. If God put lists like these in the Bible, then we should pay attention to them. It is an issue of balance. We ought to consider what God has given us in the way He has given it to us. If we only talk about sin, then that would be a misrepresentation of what God has given. If we only talk about heaven, that too would be out of balance with the Scripture. We need to see the Bible as a whole, God’s teaching to us as a whole, and not err with a one-topic focus. This is one reason I really love expository preaching through books of the Bible. There is a sense in which we are then forced to cover what God has given to us with some balance by going verse through verse in books rather than just picking topics week by week.
Another reason why we need to spend time on passages such as the one we are in this morning is because they remind us of the gloriousness of our salvation. We have to admit we are sinners, we have to admit we still sin, and as we do we should be reminded that God is gracious, He is merciful, He is good to save sinners like you and like me. This takes us, it should take us to the cross, to our Savior, not in horror, not in trembling fear, but in thankfulness, even in wonder, that He would save even us. When we think of sin we should think of the cross, of God’s provision of His Son who took our place, who died for us.
The third reason we need to look at passages such as this is because we need to repent. In a list this long with sin, we will all find areas where we need to repent. This is a time for us to take an honest look at ourselves, our lives and consider how we need to change. And as we do, we must remember that God is with us and is ready to help us as we submit to Him.
So the plan for this morning is to define most of these sins and talk very briefly about them, starting out halfway through verse 2. I’ll go rather quickly, trusting the Lord to speak to us as each of us has need to hear and understand.
I want you to consider one more thing about this list that we will look at. As I have read and studied through this, it seems apparent that – as sin usually does – each of these flow from a heart of selfishness. Just notice, if you will, how each one of these are actions and attitudes of a heart that is full of self. This is our problem, isn’t it? Selfishness. Just notice this as we work through these.
Verse two, let’s start with the word abusive in the ESV. In the last days people will be “abusive.” The original Greek word here is the word from which we get “blasphemous.” Your translation may say revilers. It is about abusive or slanderous speech. It speaks of a person who is insulting, demeaning, or defaming another person. While it is primarily about speech, it is important to remember that speech originates in the mind and comes from the heart. Jesus makes this point in Mark 7:21-22.
21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.
Putting down others is an effort to build up self. When we think we have to demean others, abuse others with our speech, use our tongues as weapons in this way, we are overstepping our place as God’s children. God hates sin and He hates abusive speech. Do you use your speech to the abuse of other people?
Next, we see this: ”Disobedient to their parents.” Okay, that is interesting. I’ve got to say that being disobedient to parents is so common in our day, so accepted, so excused, so in vogue that we may see this as out of place in this list of serious sin. But it is here and it is serious, even today. We all know what this is, but do we take it seriously? Children, do you take this seriously, the way God does?
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”
We are in the last days, we see this regularly in our society. Kids, this is a terrific opportunity for you to be a shining light among your peers. It is a chance for you to represent Christ in this world. It is a chance to be different. Are you living in obedience to your parents from the heart?
What else will we see in the last days? People will be ungrateful. Ungrateful is a complete lack of thankfulness. I mentioned how each of these are rooted in self- centeredness. Think about this one. The person who is never thankful feels as if he deserves what he has, and has no need to be thankful to anyone for it. Or a person may feel he has nothing for which to be thankful and fails to realize all that He actually has.
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
God is the source of all we have that is good. It comes from Him. We may work hard, we might make some good decisions, we may be diligent with our money and things, but when it all comes down to it, all that we have is from God. We had no choice as to where we would be born, what family we would be born into, what time period we would live in, how well our minds would function. We are decieving ourselves if we believe we have somehow just provided all good things for ourselves – we have not. God is the source. And that being true, it is our place to be grateful, to be thankful. A chief sin that leads people down a path of total abandonment from God, a total turning from God is a lack of thankfulness.
21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Failing to give thanks, failing to be grateful is sin. Do we, do you regularly live in a spirit of thanksgiving to God? For what are you thankful? Have you thanked God for those things?
“Unholy” – In the last days people will be unholy. Unholy here means godless. It is gross indecency. It is a person who is so driven by self-love that he or she will do anything to gratify themselves. They will hurt anyone in any way to fulfill their own desires. For this person, destroying another is acceptable if it helps them to gain what they want. Today we hear in the news, we see in our society, that there are no limits for many when it comes to their own lusts. And I think that in a sense this has always been true. But what seems different in our day is that in many cases there is no shame. Being unholy in this way, to the hurt of others, is more acceptable. Acceptable because of the more and more universal belief that people are free to pursue whatever makes them happy. This is a definite form of being a lover of self.
Next is “heartless.” From a Greek-English lexicon: “pertaining to a lack of love or affection for close associates or family—without normal human affection, without love for others.” A person who is totally given to loving self will have a lack of love for others, he or she will be heartless. This is a person saying, “I don’t care about you as a family member or close associate, I don’t care for you or about you.” In the last days people will be heartless.
“Unappeasable” – This is an unwillingness to be reconciled to others or to live at peace with others. It is saying that I don’t care enough about you to work things out in our relationship. I don’t care enough to maintain fellowship with you. This is very hurtful, very hurtful. This rips people from one another. You can imagine what this can do to a church family. The Bible teaches us much about seeking forgiveness from others, granting forgiveness to others, seeking peace with each other, living in unity together. To live rightly with each other we must put aside self-love and put on a willingness to do the hard work of reconciliation as much as it depends on us.
14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;
18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all
“Slanderous” – Slander is gossip, it is malicious talk. Gossip is just common speech for many. It is speech that directly harms another person. It is finding pleasure in damaging other people’s reputation. Sometimes this is done in meanness, or maybe done to make the gossiper look good, feel good about themselves; whatever the motivation, it is wrong. Probably most of us are guilty here to some degree. Do we harm others with our speech?
Next, “without self-control.” This is self-explanatory. It is like a person who just lives and reacts to life almost like an animal. No shame, no care, just do whatever, whenever, no matter how it affects others or what others may think. It is the height of loving self without regard to others, without regard to God, without regard even to consequences. This person has become a slave, a slave to their own passions. His or her life is now out of control. We may look around us and think, how can that person do this or that? What were they thinking? Well, often times that person has reached a place or fallen into a place where self-control is now gone and he is living more by instinct, sinful instinct rather than in a controlled manner as a principled person. This is a scary place, no self-control.
“Brutal” is just savagery. Again, like an animal tearing into its prey. A person consumed with self-love will be brutal in his speech and in his actions toward others.
“Not loving good” – This represents a further spiral down. This is not loving what is good, and instead loving what is evil. It is living opposite of what God desires. It is what we read in Isaiah 5.
20 Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!
Do we live in a day where good and evil are confused? Where good is called evil and evil is called good? We are certainly in the last days.
Verse 4 – “treacherous.” This is being a betrayer. It is one who will turn another person over to the control of another.
21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.
“Reckless” is what it sounds like. It is just speeding along without regard to anyone else. Just going along doing one’s own thing. It is being content to do what is best for self even if others are casualties along the way. Reckless living will harm others and will harm the reckless one, eventually. Acting without reason, acting without thinking, this too will be evident in many in the last days.
“Swollen with conceit” – This is interesting in that the root word in the Greek has to do with being surrounded by smoke. This is being so caught up in self that the reality of what is going on all around cannot be seen. One is so caught up in their own little world that the outside world is obscured. He cannot care and think of others because he is so blinded by his conceit, he is swollen with conceit.
One more for today: “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” This long list ends with this. This is a self-lover who simply pursues his own pleasure. Whatever it takes to find pleasure, that is his pursuit. Whatever false idea of happiness he has bought into, he will chase, and chase with passion. Do we not live in a time when people are in hot pursuit of pleasure? The sad thing is that pleasure, happiness, peace, joy, all the things that people really want, all these are found in being a lover of God. And yet the very opposite is taking place, God (who is the true source of all that man wants) is being denied, slandered, put aside and replaced by loving self. Are we headed down this road, or are we becoming lovers of God?
Now, I hope I have not worn you out this morning going over so many sins as we have from this passage. Instead I hope there will be great profit for each of us as we consider our walk with Christ and our need for Him in this matter.
Let me remind you about what you can do with this. It is good that we have gone over this list, that we have considered this list of sin because God gave us His Word, and this is in His Word, and He says His Word, all of it, is profitable for us.
It is good that we have gone over this list so that you can praise God for ways He has grown you and ways you have moved away from many of these sins as you grow in Christ.
And it is good that we have gone over this list because surely there are things here that we need to turn over to God, areas where we need to repent, areas where real change will be necessary in us with His help and for His glory.
Christ came because of lists like this one. He came to rescue us from our sinfulness and to pay the penalty for such sin. There is always hope with Christ, help with Christ, forgiveness with Him.
Where you need to change, will you seek Him for it? Maybe you need to seek help – make a plan for change and trust Him to work in you.