August 11, 2010 David Balzer

2 Timothy 3: Standing Out for the Gospel

Are you ever tempted by PROGRESSIVE Christianity? The promise of something EXTRA? Books and speakers and conferences that promise some new SECRET to the victorious Christian life.

It might be health and wealth. Or powerful spiritual gifts. Or victory over sin. Or successful evangelism. Or church growth. Or an exciting youth program. Or guaranteed converts.

They promise a new INSIGHT. Or a new EMPHASIS. Or a new TECHNIQUE.

It’s the seductive lure of the INNOVATIVE, the FRESH, the EXCITING. Because the OLD doesn’t seem to promise as much. “We’ve tried it. It’s too difficult. It’s boring. It’s out-dated.”

“There’s got to be something else! Why is it that the answer is always the same. “Just read your Bible and pray!” Surely there’s got to be more to it than THAT! Doesn’t there?

Have you every thought like that? I know I have!

It might be ATTRACTIVE, but that temptation to be PROGRESSIVE can also be DANGEROUS and DECEPTIVE.

Do you remember Jimmy Bakker? In the ‘80’s he was a high-flying tele-evangelist. The leader of a multi-million dollar empire. He enjoyed prestige, power, and the adulation of millions.

He preached a message of prosperity and health and wealth. God didn’t want you to live in defeat. He was a God of power, of victory, of riches.

He thumped his Bible, and pointed to all kinds of verses he said he LIVED OUT. Which backed up his opinions, and way of life. He thought he had THE INSIDE RUNNING on understanding God’s ways. “Buy the books, or tapes, or videos, and YOU can achieve what I’ve got”. That was his spin.

But it was all a fraud. He had a FORM of godliness, but his secret life showed that he denied THE VERY POWER HE WAS DECLARING.

In 1987, his world collapsed. News of his affair with a church secretary named Jessica Hahn became public. His board of directors were found to have paid hush money to keep the affair secret. His ministry was destroyed.

But that wasn’t all. In 1989 he was convicted of mail and wire fraud, and sentenced to 45 years in prison. His wife divorced him, and his empire was finished.

He promised PROGRESSION. Moving on from the old. A new level of Christian victory, and success and power. And his life seemed to back it up.

But it was all smoke and mirrors. There was no SUBSTANCE behind it. The only PROGRESSION he made was from riches to bankruptcy, from marriage to divorce, from freedom to prison.

He promised RELIABILITY, and CONFIDENCE. But he wasn’t to be trusted. He was INCONSISTENT. He talked the talk. But didn’t walk the walk.

One way of describing it/ is that HE HAD A FORM OF GODLINESS, BUT DENIED THE POWER OF THE VERY MESSAGE HE PROCLAIMED.

The APPEARANCE of truth, but no REALITY. EXTERNALS, but not INTERNALS.

PROGRESSIVE and INCONSISTENT. They’re two common characteristics of false teachers.

And there are plenty of OTHER examples. And we don’t have to go too far from home. A new minister arrived at a Presbyterian church close to Sydney around ten years ago. The organist/ choir-master was a practising, unrepentant homosexual.

The minister sacked him. Told him he was welcome at church, but was no longer to exert any leadership in the church.

The guy complained loud and long. The story was all over the media. About how the church wasn’t compassionate or loving. It was judgmental, and discriminatory.

The choir master had A FORM OF GODLINESS – he was helping people, serving God, doing his duty, making beautiful music. But he denied the power of God to change lives. He had nothing to repent of.

He talked the talk. But didn’t walk the walk. He was INCONSISTENT.

And he thought he was PROGRESSIVE. In line with modern attitudes. INCLUSIVE attitudes. NON-JUDGMENTAL attitudes. Attitudes which said, “God’s not against LOVE. He doesn’t JUDGE. It’s only OLD FASHIONED people who believe in THAT stuff anymore.”

INCONSISTENT AND PROGRESSIVE.

Or take the case of Dr Peter Carnley, the Primate of the Anglican Church in Australia. Years of theological study, Decades of leading the church. And yet he doesn’t believe in the resurrection. According to him the resurrection is nothing more than unhistorical “embroidery” or embellishment to the message of Jesus which EDUCATED people have long since outgrown.

He thinks he’s PROGRESSIVE. Grown beyond historical Christianity.

And he’s also INCONSISTENT. How can you call yourself a Christian, but not believe that Jesus’ body was raised from the dead? What HOPE does that leave US when it comes to death?

It seems to me that he has nothing more than A FORM OF GODLINESS, but he denies its power.

One more example. Bernie’s at the Australian Catholic University, training to be a teacher, and she’s doing RELIGION subjects. But do you think her religion lecturers actually BELIEVE any of the stuff in the Bible? Any of the stuff they’re TEACHING? Hardly ANY of it!

They dismiss it all as myths, and good stories. Fine literature, but not something that 21st century Christians should believe.

You wonder what they hope to GAIN by teaching religion to Catholic schoolchildren.

They’re PROGRESSIVE and INCONSISTENT.

The reality is/ it’s nothing more than a FORM of godliness, but one which denies that God has the power to actually CHANGE anything.

1. Progressive and Inconsistent (1-9)

a. Inconsistent

And the same sort of people were around in Paul’s day. False teachers. We don’t know EXACTLY what they were like. But they certainly seem to be PROGRESSIVE and INCONSISTENT.

And look at what Paul says about THEM. There in v5. They have a FORM of godliness, but deny its power.

That’s the INCONSISTENCY. They look like ONE THING from the OUTSIDE. But on the INSIDE, they’re something different.

The incredible thing, when you read the rest of Paul’s description is that they could fool ANYONE. It’s hard to imagine how anyone could have THE APPEARANCE OF GODLINESS when they’re described with words like this.

(2 Tim 3:2-4 NIV)  …lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, {3} without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, {4} treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God–

Terrible attitudes, and behaviours, and motivations, and desires. How could they DECEIVE ANYONE?

And yet the truth is/ when we look at a guy like Jim Bakker, he probably had a fair few of those characteristics. At least on the INSIDE. That no-one else knew about. While all the time, on the OUTSIDE he gave the APPEARANCE of godliness.

b. Persuasive

But the problem with LOOKING good/ is that people like that give a good impression. They’re PERSUASIVE. And that makes them DANGEROUS. And the ones Paul’s thinking of are no different. Look at how Paul describes it. The persuasive influence they have. There in v6.

(2 Tim 3:6-7 NIV)  They are the kind who WORM their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are SWAYED by all kinds of evil desires, {7} always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.

Snake oil salesmen who went door-to-door. Catching people when they were vulnerable. Selling them the latest deal.

And you can see the same sort of situation among Christians today. Following every new book or program or tape or conference that comes out. GULLIBLE people. HURTING people. UNSATISFIED people. Who are always searching for the secret to success. Who are always LEARNING, but never actually making PROGRESS. Progress in GODLINESS, or SERVICE, or WITNESS.

Does that describe YOU? Who’s leading YOU? Where are they leading you?

Teaching like this might attract a following for a while, but it all blows over pretty quickly. The problem with INCONSISTENCY is that eventually you GET FOUND OUT. Exposed.

Just like Jimmy Bakker. Eventually, secrets are discovered. Smokescreens are seen through.

It mightn’t be a MORAL exposure. It might just be the EMPTINESS that gets exposed. Teaching that’s based on FLUFF and FOLLY, rather than God’s word. And it fades as quickly as it COMES.

And Paul makes the same point with the people in HIS experience. Look down to v9

(2 Tim 3:9 NIV)  But they will NOT GET VERY FAR because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.

They think they’re PROGRESSIVE, but what progress do they REALLY make? They won’t get very FAR. They’ll grind to a halt. Their teaching ultimately gets the attention it deserves.

Paul’s shone the searchlight of God’s truth into the dark, grubby corners of their lives. And they’ve been found out.

They’re like those Hollywood fake buildings. They look solid from the front, but if you try to open a door, or lean on a wall, the whole thing falls apart. It’s nothing more than appearance. Cardboard and canvas, rather than bricks and wood. They won’t get far because their folly will be clear to everyone.

And so what’s Paul’s message for Timothy? When it comes to dealing with these kinds of people? Look at it there, at the end of v5. HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THEM! DON’T LET THEM INFLUENCE YOU!

You almost don’t need to say it. After the picture Paul’s painted. Of what they’re like. And how they behave. And how they influence people. But he says it anyway. Because they’re so inconsistent, and persuasive. HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THEM. Because they promise GODLINESS, but can’t DELIVER.

2. Steadfast and Consistent (10-17)

INSTEAD, Paul has another example to follow. Another path to godliness. It may not be as attractive, or promise as much. But it’s SURE, and STEADFAST, and CERTAIN, and CONSISTENT.

It’s the path GOD’S designed. The path of the gospel. Of suffering. Of using the Scriptures.

In a nutshell, it’s following PAUL. Look there in v10.

(2 Tim 3:10-11 NIV)  You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, {11} persecutions, sufferings–what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.

If the false teachers are PROGRESSIVE AND INCONSISTENT, then Paul HIMSELF is STEADFAST AND CONSISTENT.

Look at what he’s saying there. I might have had to fill you in on a few secrets about these FALSE teachers. But I don’t have to do it for ME. You KNOW me.

You know my teaching. The things I’ve taught. The truths of the gospel. What you see is what you get.

But more than that/ you know MY WAY OF LIFE. And my way of life backs up my teaching. I’m CONSISTENT. There’s no hypocrisy with me. I WALK what I TALK.

You can see that when I SAY that making friends with God is my number one priority/ that I MEAN it. My life BACKS IT UP. You can see it in my purpose, my faith, my patience, love and endurance.

I’m consistent and steadfast.

In fact, I’m SO consistent and steadfast. That my message doesn’t change even when PERSECUTIONS COME. Nothing changes when times get tough. I’m STILL THE SAME.

Someone who only HALF believes their message will give up as soon as things get tough.

My brother used to sell DYSON vacuum-cleaners. Actually, he got a JOB selling them, but I think he only sold one. They only sell them DOOR TO DOOR.

They’re pretty incredible vacuum cleaners. But they cost about $2500. My brother came and demonstrated one to us. We agreed because he got paid something for each demo. But at the end of the demo, he said. Don’t buy one, because they cost too much. They’re not worth it!

He didn’t really BELIEVE his message. He only lasted about a month, before he gave it away. Someone who only HALF believes their message will give up as soon as things get tough

But Paul’s WALK and TALK were SO consistent that he even endured PERSECUTIONS. Something Timothy knows very well.

Steadfast and consistent. The exact OPPOSITE of the OTHER guys.

And it’s exactly the same thing Paul wants to see in TIMOTHY. Look there in v13.

(2 Tim 3:13-14 NIV)  while evil men and impostors WILL GO FROM BAD TO WORSE, deceiving and being deceived. {14} But as for you, CONTINUE/ in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it,

Evil men PROGRESS. They progress from bad to worse. That’s the only development they make. But Tim is to REMAIN. To CONTINUE. That’s the contrast. To keep doing the same things he’s always done.

Keep believing the same things. Keep trusting the same path. Keep following the same examples. Listening to the same leaders. Copying the same models.

The false lure of PROGRESS is a trap. There ARE no short-cuts, or hidden programs, or special secrets.

Another CHURCH won’t make life any easier, or more satisfying. A new group of people, or programs to be involved in won’t give more joy.

PROGRESS in the Christian walk only comes through PERSEVERANCE. Sticking it out. STEADFASTNESS. Not chopping and changing. I read this verse out last week before the congregational meeting. It’s from James 1.

(James 1:2-4 NIV)  Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, {3} because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. {4} Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

REAL progress – maturity and completeness – comes from STEADFASTLY sticking it out. That’s God’s “secret” method.

Imagine an Olympic athlete who changed his training program every week. As soon as an exercise got HARD, he STOPPED. You’d never make progress THAT WAY. It’s only by PERSEVERING through a training program, working muscles HARD, pushing THROUGH the pain barrier, that REAL progress is made.

How ridiculous for an athlete to say, “I’m really making PROGRESS. I’ve been through five different programs in five weeks. I’m no faster or stronger, but I’ve changed programs more quickly than anyone else!”

Godly maturity and completeness- real progress- comes from PERSEVERANCE.

And notice where I’ve got this so-called “secret” training programme from? FROM GOD’S WORD. Real progress comes from God’s Word.

It may not seem too exciting, or new-fangled. But it’s TRUE. And POWERFUL. And USEFUL. Look at how Paul puts it. V15.

(2 Tim 3:15-17 NIV)  and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. {16} All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, {17} so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

When you start getting itchy feet, start to believe the lie, start to listen to the progressives, just remember the power of the Word of God. It’s his word which can TRULY change lives. Teach. Train. Rebuke. Correct.

It’s a lesson that Jimmie Bakker only learned IN JAIL. Listen to what he said in an interview I read

I use to preach that God wanted everybody to be rich and prosperous, with no pain and no problems – a Pollyanna gospel. But the Prosperity Gospel doesn’t make much sense when you’re in prison. AS I STUDIED THE BIBLE there, I was appalled that I could have been so wrong, and I was deeply grateful that God had not struck me dead as a false prophet! I had taught people to fall in love with money. The deceitfulness of riches and the lust for other things HAD CHOKED OUT THE WORD OF GOD IN MY LIFE.

(The interviewer asked) More than anything else, what changed your mind?
The WORDS OF CHRIST. For two solid years in prison, I read and reread everything He said. I read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Matthew 4:4 was a turning point: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDETH FROM THE MOUTH OF GOD. Every word. The reason I preached false doctrine is that I didn’t study the whole counsel of God.

Jimmie Bakker learned a lesson about THE POWER OF GOD’S WORD. It’s his compelling TOOL for teaching, training, rebuking, correcting. And it seems to have changed HIS life.

And look at what Paul says is the end result of that influence. What’s the result of all that input? “That the man or woman of God will be THOROUGHLY EQUIPPED for every good work. Mature. Toughened. Steadfast. Consistent.

Like the finely-tuned athlete standing on the medal dais. Bulging muscles. Rippling six-pack. The result of the perfect training program, and years of commitment and perseverance.

And that’s what God wants YOU to be. Finely tuned SPIRITUAL athletes. Because you’ve STUCK TO what YOU KNOW. God’s WORD. Following godly examples. PERSEVERING where God’s put you. Not looking anywhere else, but finding your joy and rest and satisfaction and fulfilment in HIM. And him alone.

That’s TRUE progress.

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