Living in Interesting Times (2 Timothy 3 and 4)

Living in Interesting Times (2 Timothy 3 and 4)

Living in Interesting Times FH Newsletter 2  (click for PDF version)

“May you live in interesting times,” so goes an ancient Chinese curse. What sounds at first great and exciting, “interesting times” refers to times of too much change and strangeness. This so disrupts people from their organic roots that living the good life is distressed and difficult. I hear symptoms of “interesting times” most every day from my friends and FH church family.

It’s not that they say the words “interesting times,” but what they mention refers to the change, strangeness, and distress. I hear of strange cartoons for our children that consistently portray bumbling fathers, clueless mothers, and heroic children who know all the answers. There are the shocking comments about the increase of lying and treachery, as cheating in schools is an epidemic, politicians can’t win if they don’t lie, and every event is subject to daily media massage.   There are laments that civil discussion about most any issue is impossible due to slanderous attacks on a person’s character or affiliation without seriously considering what that person is saying. It is said that never have we had more inmates with higher self-esteem and self-assurance, also called arrogance. Put these alongside growing numbers who attend to celebrity gossip as if it were the Gospel, those who think that one’s bank account really is the measure of one’s worth, and churches that worry they might speak too much about Jesus, all the while sending money to support Seminary Professors who do advanced gymnastics to avoid core teachings of the Bible. “Interesting times” indeed. Yet this need not catch us off guard. There is a very relevant Scripture in 2 Timothy chapters 3 and 4.

Have you read 2 Timothy 3-4 lately? The chapters are written for those inside the Christian faith for encouragement and direction in “interesting times.” They are not primarily for non-Christians or thinking-to-be Christians, but for those serving Jesus as Savior and King. One should not be offended by trying to anticipate how outsiders might think of this. It is not in their “mailbox,” but is for those gathered around the cross, who hold the faith of Christ. However, offense cannot be ruled out, because, the Spirit of Christ is sensitive to any times when we plant one foot in the kingdom and another foot in the flat (lacking the God dimension) world that is consciously or unconsciously closed to God’s work in Christ.

The passage reveals a complex of flat-out worldly impulses that combine into a raging cultural storm around Jesus and His people. The storm can also blow directly through the church wherever its doors and windows are opened to the roaring winds of flat-out worldliness which disrupt, disorient, and dash the faith against the rocks. I have watched this Scripture closely for three years now, thinking for the most part, “This can’t really be happening and it’s mostly coincidental” or maybe “It really applies to every generation.” But I have become convinced that this formerly unthinkable prophecy is now fully birthed into our present day. The growing number of “coincidences” finally outweighed every form of denial I could muster. Truly all prophecy and interpretation must be put to the test as 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 says, “Do not treat prophecies with contempt, but test them all; hold on to what is good.” In this case I ask the reader to put to the test my interpretation and explanation of what I can only see as a very relevant prophecy in 2 Timothy chapters 3 and 4. Please remember, I am just a messenger trying to spell out the message that is not my own, belonging to the God Who Is whose concern for the church is far bigger, better and beyond what I can express.

A Time of Progressive Deception Prophesied (2 Timothy 3-4) 

But know this, that in the last days perilous {also translate as difficult / dangerous / distressing / fierce} times will come: {Are not the descriptions that follow like reading today’s NY Times or listening to 30 minutes of CNN?}  For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, traitors {treachery with regard to promises, application of law, and vows (such as oaths of office, like “uphold the constitution” and wedding vows “’til death do us part”) are so common as to be almost expected.  See further a “treachery with words” which shamelessly redefines basic words as it fits the agenda at hand.  Notice also a treachery of moral inversion that calls evil good and good evil (Isa 5:20)}, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure {culture of belly and below} rather than lovers of God,  {Love begins and ends the descriptions here.  Love abounds in everyone’s language, but love can serve many masters, so how can love alone guide without a strong context (the Bible) and proper focus (God)?  “All we need is love”—what love, defined by whom?  Love is easily disordered without reference to humanity’s  First Love—the Lord}, having a form of godliness but denying its power. {I take this as including reference to those who deny the Gospel can redemptively change those practicing the likes of adultery, pornography, same sex relations, greed, and compulsive lying among others –no power in their gospel! They may even use Christian and religious words (the shell form) without knowledge of or allegiance to the inside substance of Christ.}  And from such people turn away! {Big Statement of a “necessary disunity”; Jude 1:18 says “’In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.’” These are the ones who cause divisions,”}  For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, {exerting strong social influence over and manipulation of those in this case easily misled through appeals to their lowest selves}  always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.  {a progressive process of superficiality}  Now as Jannes and Jambres {faker magicians, “wise” men,” manipulators and power brokers: “but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods” Ex 7:12)} resisted Moses, so do these also {three descriptions:} resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, {trashed and twisted} disapproved concerning the faith {yet approved by the world}; but they will progress no further  {ironic prediction for these progressives}, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.  {History is on OUR side–one day a generation will look on the folly of this era of economic irresponsibility (over 17 trillion in debt with no real budgetary restraint) and sexual expressionism and wonder how it could be so perverted and decadent.  Recall Sodom and Gomorrah’s “High” Culture, Egypt’s startling power before Moses, and our own time looking back on the perversions of Germany’s “unstoppable” National Socialist-Nazi regime.}

10 BUT YOU have carefully followed my {Jesus’ chosen Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul’s} doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance,  {We have a marvelous and apostolic teaching, life and tradition in which to stand; and part of it includes:}  11 persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured.  {It doesn’t have to be martyrdom and death to qualify as persecution just as one does not have to have a terminal illness to be sick enough to be in the hospital.}   And out of them all the Lord delivered me. {Remember the Lord is Deliverer} 12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly {the godly aspect key} in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. {Paul explains to expect persecution as part of a living connection to Christ.}

13 But evil men and impostors {deception} will grow worse and worse {progressive alright, but in corruption and dishonor}, deceiving and being deceived. {progressing into a cycle of lies and shadows of deception}

14 BUT YOU must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, {the Scriptures, v 15} knowing from whom you have learned them, {get your bearings from people who love in truth} 15 and that from childhood  {1:5 learned from grandmother and mother Lois and Eunice} you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise {true wisdom} for salvation {true progress} through faith which is in Christ Jesus. {the True Center and Goal of History} 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God {God-breathed}, and is profitable for teaching {Only the narrative story and overall big picture?  Not only this but more, including core instructive rules among the following activities:}, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 that the person who belongs to God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.  {Behold the wondrous trajectory of Scripture which prepares and equips us for times such as this.}

I SOLEMNLY CHARGE YOU in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, {Judgment Day is a comfort to us and a guarantee of vindication} and by His appearing and His kingdom: {For now, the implication of Christ’s coming Kingdom of salvation in judgment is to } preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, {not simply say “encouraging things”}  exhort {but also say “encouraging things”}, with great patience {Patience essential} and instruction {this a time for teaching}.   For the time will come when they {they who?} will not endure {Unable to TOLERATE } sound doctrine {they were taught and acquainted with sound doctrine}; but wanting to have their ears tickled {seeking titillation and tickling but nothing deep}, they will accumulate {heap up–a great number} for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, {expect MANY books, lectures, and teachers on call to affirm a “culture of transgression”}  and will turn away their ears from the truth {expect it} and will turn aside to myths.  {They will be given over to noisy narratives that will co-opt and subvert the History of God’s Redemption in Christ, displacing the Greatest Story with pick and choose imitations.}

BUT YOU, be sober {fully aware} in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.  {What is YOUR ministry to the body of Christ?  Soldier on in the light of the present and coming glory of Jesus!}

This is the prophesied “progressive deception” unfolding right before our eyes.  We are fortunate to have such a specific word for such a time as this. Note the admonitions headed by “BUT YOU.” You (the church) are different. Keep this passage in mind and I believe you will begin seeing its application often and every day. Let us take hold of the insight, direction and comfort this prophecy gives for our lives. I am glad to report that what I see in 2 Timothy 3 and 4 is very similar to two godly and insightful church leaders, D.A. Carson, From the Resurrection to His Return: Living Faithfully in the Last Days (2010), and Steve Berger, Pastor at Grace Chapel down the road who preached a series of sermons earlier this year on 2 Timothy 3 and 4 called “Perilous Times Shall Come.”   Carson’s 48 page booklet is now free on line. (I paid $8 for my copy a while back.)

Steve’s sermons are all on line in HD—you can scroll thru the worship service right to the preaching.   They are a wonderful unpacking of the passage for those who want more:

Steve Berger’s comments during his introductory sermon on the passage is a good ending word for us. He said that 2 Tim 3 and 4 is not about the Signs of the Times but rather the Sins of the Times. In this matter it is of vital importance to tend to our heart. We must

1) Examine our Hearts: We must “examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith” (2 Cor 13:5), taking the plank of flat-worldliness out of our own eye that we may see.  What “Sins of the Times” do I need to address in my life?

2) Keep our Hearts: “Keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 1:21). The Sins of the Times must not make us cynical or cold toward those under the sway of flat-out worldliness. We must stay in the love of God, which shows us and inspires in us love for all people while also encouraging and strengthening us through the life and love in Jesus and His people.

3) Guard our Hearts “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Yes this is our spiritual EKG.   ===========


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