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Be Prepared – Don’t Be Surprised (2 Timothy 3)

From the series Becoming an Effective Disciple Maker

Have you ever been blindsided by an unexpected diagnosis, a sudden end to a relationship, or a shocking betrayal? Or maybe you’re anxiously waiting for the bottom to fall out of your life? In this message, Chip talks about the control fear and uncertainty has over people’s lives. Hear what God’s remedy is for this powerful emotion, as Chip continues our series - Becoming an Effective Disciple Maker - from 2nd Timothy chapter 3.

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Message Transcript

When we are surprised, we react. When we are prepared, we respond. When we are surprised by things, we react. When we are prepared, we respond. And I thought about how when you’re surprised and when you’re surprised by evil, it’s disorienting.

Here’s what the apostle Paul is going to teach us and he taught Timothy. And I state it this way: Don’t allow current and future events to undermine your confidence in God’s purposes and promises for you in the world.

You know, we can’t just casually say, “Oh, God is sovereign.” We know He is. But some current or maybe some events that are coming can undermine your confidence in God’s purposes. Like, at some point, you know, maybe real privately, is this true or not? How could a good God let this happen? How could it be this bad? Where is He? Those are thoughts I have had on a bad day. And so, Paul warns of an increase in wickedness in the last days. And we’ll talk about the last days.

Let me just read verses 1 through about 5. “But realize this,” okay, context, context people. We’ve always got to remember. “Timothy,” right? “Don’t be ashamed. Timothy, don’t give up, don’t give in, you need to be strong, you need to be bold in this chaotic culture.” But realize this, Timothy, “that in the last days difficult times will come.” That word “difficult” can also mean dangerous, challenging. “For people will be lovers of self and lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, slanderers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding,” notice the context of this, “holding to a form of godliness although they have denied its power.” Command, “Avoid such people as these.”

So, let’s ask and answer two questions and then let’s dig in and talk about what are the implications?

Question number one should be: Are we in the last days? Right? Hebrews chapter 1. “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers and the prophets and in many portions and many ways, in these last days has spoken to us through His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things through whom He also made the world.”

When Jesus came and revealed Himself as the Son of God and the Messiah and the Savior of the world, biblically speaking, that’s when the last days begin. We are in the last days. Because this is the last installment. There isn’t something else coming later. This is, this is the era of the Church, of God’s appeal, of salvation. And depending on your theology during the end times, the Church will be raptured, the Lord will return, He’ll set up His kingdom, and on we go. We are in the last days.

Now, what we need to understand is that we are a couple thousand years from when the last days began. And so, I think it’s fair to say, like, how long are these last days? Well, after a few decades of the Church, some early Christians were saying, “Hey, you know, what’s the deal with the last days?”

And so, in [2nd] Peter chapter 3, Peter explains, “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own desires, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue just as they were from the beginning of creation.’ For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the Word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of the water by the water, through which the world at that time was destroyed by being flooded with water. But by His Word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly people. Do not let this one fact escape you. Notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.”

And so, I think when you open this chapter and he says, “Mark this, Timothy, in the last days, evil things are going to come,” and then he starts to lay them out. He is saying, “In the last days, beginning now, these are the kind of things you’re going to see.” And the inference here is as we get closer and closer, these kind of things will intensify and become more and more the norm instead of the exception. Does that make sense?

By the way, we always have to keep remembering, as challenging as it is for us, it’s not new. Isaiah chapter 5, verse [20], “Woe to you,” what? Anybody know this passage? “Woe to you when evil is called good and good is called evil, when light is called darkness and darkness is called light.”

All I want you to get is that the world, historically, has been far different from the window that many of us have gotten to experience. And what we are now seeing in America as you abandon, and I’m not talking about political issues, I’m talking about values, I’m talking about worldview, I’m talking about reverence for God.

You know, I don’t know if you have been reading the Old Testament lately and, like Isaiah, Jeremiah. I don’t know about you, but I just kind of go, “And now, here’s the judgment on Edom. And now here’s the judgment on the Philistines. And now here’s the judgement…”

So, God judges nations? And then you get over there to Revelation and Jesus talking about it’s more tolerable, it’s going to be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah, it’s going to be more tolerable for this country and this country, “Than you, Bethesda, and you Capernaum, because of the [miracles] -” it’s almost like the Bible talks about that God actually does judgement for nations. Oh, wow! Huh. I wonder if He’s still doing that today.

You know, sometimes we have a picture of God’s judgment is like lightning bolts coming down at people. But Romans 1 is a picture of passive judgment. When you sow to the flesh, you reap corruption.

And what God, in His mercy, will say, “If you want to do it your own way with these consequences, you can. And then at some point, when it’s rebellion, rebellion, rebellion.
And a lot of people, they don’t know they are rebelling. He says, “Okay, I’m just going to, I’m going to give you over.”

That’s the word in Romans 1. He says, “I’m going to give you over. I’m going to give you over, I’m going to give you over to fully do whatever you want to do in the areas of finance, in the areas of sexuality, in the areas of family.”

But what happens when that happens is you get the consequences that you see in America today. And unfortunately, so we can be fair, inside the church of which I am a pastor so I have to own my part of this, is that it’s easy to point to the sins that we aren’t most guilty of and say how terrible they are.

But when was it, what happened in the Church when it was okay to get a divorce for any reason? There are biblical divorces, right? Grounds of immorality or abandonment by an unbeliever. But, so, when that went by the way, and then… Well, all I’m saying is we have, inch by inch, inside the Church, we have mortgaged our own moral standings.

I just read a conversation just the other day of parents that were talking about, you know, their daughter and her lesbian lover and how can you do this and you were raised in the Church, etcetera, etcetera. And her words were, “Well, Uncle Fred left his wife. He didn’t have biblical divorce. And then he got remarried to someone else that didn’t have a biblical divorce. And it was all thumbs up, you know, praising God for the church wedding with Uncle Fred. So, what happened, mom and dad?”

And so, all I want you to know is what the apostle Paul is saying here is when these things happen with greater and greater intensity, are you ready? Just don’t be surprised.

What characterizes the increase of wickedness is primarily self-love, love of money, love of pleasure, and then the dominoes.

How about this? Lean back. Amplified Bible. “But understand this, that in the last days dangerous times of great stress and trouble will come [difficult days that will be hard to bear]. For people will be lovers of self, narcissistic, self-focused, lovers of money [impelled by greed], boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, and profane, and they will be unloving, they will be devoid of natural human affection, they will be calloused and inhumane, irreconcilable. They’ll gossip maliciously. They’ll be devoid of any self-control, intemperate, and immoral, they’ll be brutal, haters of good, traitors in relationships, reckless and conceited, lovers of sensual pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of outward godliness (religion), although they have denied its power, for their conduct nullifies their claim of faith. Avoid such people and keep far away from them.”

And then he’s going to give a couple of examples so that Timothy realizes: Hey, this has happened in the past. And so, the question I put here is: How are we tempted to interpret these developments? When you’ve seen all this wickedness and all this violence and stuff happening, what down deep, what are your feelings? What have you done? Where are your fears?”

And you know what? We would hear, “It just feels like the world is out of control. It feels hopeless. I’m scared to death for those of you that are grandparents, or for those that are parents. What kind of world are my kids going to come into? Is it even going to be safe to walk in the streets in the future? Right? These are the kind of things that create incredible angst, anxiety, depression, division.

When things are really getting crazy, what do we do? We are all human, right? Remember when we are little kids and things got really hard, you blame your brother, you blame your sister. Well, when they get really hard in a society, you find some other people to blame. And it’s them. And the problem is out there and we get more and more and more divided. And we create this Petrie dish, culturally, of anger and blame and hurt and suspicion and lack of trust and fear.

And that’s the temptation that we have. And in the midst of that, there’s this supernatural community, this group of people that is what is called the body of Jesus. His hands, His feet, His eyes. People that live above all that fray. People who understand the fallenness of mankind. People who recognize the things that they have done and been forgiven of, people who grasp that this is our opportunity in the midst of all this pain and blame and violence. This is the opportunity to love and to heal and to respond and to set an example.

And what Paul is saying to Timothy is: This is going to be the normal thing, but you’ve got to understand, this is how people react. For some people, you isolate. For some people, they begin to doubt. “You know, I don’t believe anymore that God is sovereign. If He was, we wouldn’t be having this. This isn’t the life. I’ve gone to church, I tithe, I read my Bible regularly. And look at what happened. Look at what happened in my world, look what happened in our company, look what happened in our nation.” Right?

Do you understand where this goes? That’s why he is writing to Timothy and that’s why we are reading it today. We are tempted to feel hopeless and helpless and blame and question God’s purposes.

How are we to respond to these developments? Look at verse [5]. He says, “Avoid,” turn away from, “such people and their behavior.”

The two temptations are to, one, compromise or to isolate. It’s like, you know what? “It’s so crazy out there, I’m just going to kind of watch it on TV and hope it doesn’t get too close to me and, you know, my little world. The problem is your little world keeps shrinking, right? The flip side is we have all heard of that illustration where, you know, you put the frog in water and you do the temperature very, very, very slowly. I think as it erodes more and more in the culture you’re going to see more and more things that even five years ago, Christians would never do this that will become commonplace because people will compromise.

I was counseling with a person, you know, a year or so ago. And godly person, great family. And a couple of his godly friends and one was going through a tough time and he kind of tried to help his buddy. And eventually they got a divorce. Then it happened to another close friend. And so, a couple of his closest friends are going through these things. And then they entered a new world. Now they are wounded, now they are hurt, and now they are sort of back in it. Well, now they are sleeping around.

And I said, you know, “What do you think about all that?” “Well, I’m really trying to help them, really trying to help them.” And I said, “Are they willfully just kind of living that out?” “Yeah, but, you know, we are talking.” And I, you know how pastors are, I pulled out the Bible. And so, I said, “You know, I know you want to help them, but this passage says when a so-called brother or sister is living in willful sin and you talk to them and they don’t respond at all, don’t even eat with them. Don’t keep providing the spiritual and relational support that facilitates the benefits of being in the body of Christ instead of allowing the consequences of their actions to be,” remember what Paul said? “I turn this one over to Satan to buffet him.”

The goal wasn’t to hurt him. It was to restore that person that was involved in immorality in the Corinthian church. And I’ll never forget, he said, “Well, I could never do that.” Which was followed sometime later by a moral failure in his life. 1 Corinthians 15:33: Bad company corrupts good morals every time. And none of us are immune. It is happening so subtly. And it’s not just in the sexual area. Ask yourself: How are people viewing money? How are people viewing priorities? How are people viewing sort of what is acceptable or not acceptable.

And I don’t mean culturally. I mean from what the Scripture says. And so, notice how he picks it up. He talks about the specific ways these people live it out. “For among them are those who slip into households and captivate weak women, weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses. Always learning, never able to come into a knowledge of the truth.”

So, he says, “Timothy, this is a current example of how these things, not just in the last days, someday, someway, but these things are playing out right now. You just need to be aware.” And then he gives him a historic example. And then he goes on to say, “Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved minds, worthless in regard to the faith.”

By tradition, those were two of the magicians who, when Moses did - remember all those supernatural things - they could copy it, copy it, copy it until he did some things that required the creation of life.

And he goes, “You know, it’s happening today, it happened back in Moses’ days.” And then notice, but he says, “Look at the outcome. Look at the outcome.” “But they will not make further progress, for their foolishness will be obvious to all, just as it was also of Jannes and Jambres.”

And so, you’re Timothy, you know your Old Testament, and you’re thinking of the challenge and the bondage and what they went through and Moses who was bold and before being bold, what he got, he got knocked by Pharaoh and he got knocked by his own people.

Do you see the picture he’s trying to see? And so, Moses gave up and said, “I guess it’s not worth it.” Oh, no, that’s not how the story goes. So, Moses hung in there and Moses had challenges and doubts and struggles. And the Lord was with him.
You’ll notice in the next section I just entitled this, “Don’t be afraid. Keep pressing ahead.” Verses 10 through 17.

It’s – there is a fear that has gripped. We can’t live our lives out of the lens of fear.

You have to live your life out of a lens of faith. But this kind of evil causes us to question that. That kind of evil causes us to wonder, “Can we trust God? Can we trust His promises?” And what Paul is trying to help him see is, okay, “Timothy, so, notice this. Let’s remember some of your past progress.” Verse 10. “Now you,” he’s contrasting him with these people that are going down very bad paths. “Now, you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and suffering – such as happened to me in Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured. And out of them all,” what’s the punchline? “…The Lord rescued me.”

I would encourage you to remember past progress, to literally kind of look in the rearview mirror, not maybe a year or two, but to try and even if you need to sit quietly and ask God or especially with family members, “Where has God shown up in the most challenging and difficult times in our life?”

And you would start to tell stories about taking one of your kids to the ICU. You’d start telling stories about a time where you thought there’s no way your marriage is going to work. You’d start talking about time when you got laid off or a company shut down, and you had literally no money, no groceries. You’d talk about a time, in some of our cases, when one of you had cancer and it was very questionable whether you were going to make it.

And you start looking back, looking back, looking back, looking back and you would have a story that God has rescued you out of things in the past. He’s not idle. And, by the way, you know, I know, I’m a broken record. If you keep watching a lot of news, you will live in fear, because the news is made and geared to be sensational. It’s to get your attention and to keep you watching. And we have, by and large, a Church that is living out of fear. And perfect love casts out fear, according to the Bible.

And the second thing, he says, “Look, persecution is normal.” Look at verse 12.

“Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Contrast, “But evil people and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving,” and here’s what to remember, “and being deceived.”

You understand that some of the most terrible things that are happening in our world are happening by people who absolutely believe with all their heart they are bringing good and making things better.

And if you don’t get that, you’ll either think they are stupid, bigoted, anti-intellectual like they think we are. And you’ll never get to know them or listen to where they are coming from. But does anybody remember a guy named Saul? Just, you know, remember him? Remember his testimony? He says, “God was gracious to me, because out of ignorance…” Saul was absolutely committed, knew the Bible inside and out, was actually committed to crushing this movement called The Way. Christians. Why? To honor God.

The most dangerous people in the world are people with religious zeal, believing they are doing what they are doing for God.

We had, a pastor was with us a couple weeks ago and this is so fresh, it just, and we heard his testimony. In fact, we got it on film. He was a, he was with ISIS and was being trained as an assassin.

And he finished his training and got his target and was on his way to finish the job. And he had a, I can’t even describe it, he had this intervention moment where God spoke to him. And it’s too long a story to tell, but in that moment he responded to that, which resulted in him coming to Christ. And how many people personally has he led to the Lord? Thousands. I mean, and it was like nineteen thousand and something and someone said, “Well, how do you know?” He said, “Because I was the one who baptized them.”

Don’t be ashamed. Be bold! Be strong. Be strong in what? Be strong in grace and there’s a connection. And the things that you have heard, entrust to faithful men, faithful women, faithful children, faithful grandchildren, neighbors, friends, people at church. Don’t just keep going to meetings.

Where do we want to go? Let’s be intentional. Let’s walk through this together. Let’s be difference-makers. In our little sphere, that’s all you have to do. You don’t have to be famous, you don’t have to be big, you don’t have to be smarter, you don’t have to be more educated, you just have to be willing.

And he’s going to get to the end and he’s going to show you and me how it actually happens. And so, he says to Timothy, giving a little more encouragement here.

He says, verse 14, “You, however,” I love that. “Continue in the things that you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and from childhood you have known the,” – what? “sacred writing, which are able to give you wisdom that leads to salvation through faith, which is in Christ Jesus.”

And then this classic verse. “All Scripture is inspired,” or, “God-breathed and is beneficial for teaching,” what’s true and what’s right, “for rebuking,” correcting when things are wrong, “for correction,” not only it’s wrong, but how to get back on track, “and for training in righteousness,” how to make it habitually a part of your life. Why? “So that the man or woman of God, may be fully capable, equipped for every good work.” You know, it’s powerful! It’s powerful. God’s Word is powerful.

We have done some research at Living on the Edge and we have partnered and got some information from the American Bible Society. And you might be shocked, but can I tell you the average Christian does not read the Bible. It gets worse. We commissioned a study because we were ministering to pastors all evangelicals, but from about forty-five or fifty different backgrounds or denominations. And in our survey, only twenty-one percent of pastors ever opened their Bible except for sermon preparation. The reason we are investing so much in pastors – anemic pastors produce sick sheep.

You know what Paul knew? There’s a lot of pressure for a pastor like Timothy. There’s a lot of pressure for pastors today all over the world and here. There’s a lot of pressure for people like you who have a lot on your plate.

I want to tell you a story and if you identify with it, it was at the last church I pastored and one of my jobs always was: What’s the next pipeline for the next elders? And I had a process where they didn’t know I was doing this, but I would, I went to the staff and I went to our present elders and, “Just tell me, who are people that are actually leading? They are real leaders in our church.” And then I would just call them privately or stop them in the hall and say, “Hey, I wonder if you would be willing to kind of meet with me every other week for about three months. I’m just pulling a group of guys together. I’ve been told that you’re one of our leaders. You’re doing this and this and these ministries. And the elders told me, or the staff, and I’d just like to get to know you. And if there’s any way I could be help in your life, that would be wonderful.”

And usually they all said yes. And so, I always started it the same way. And I had sort of techniques behind why I was doing what I was doing. I told, “Well, we will start at four, we’ll be done at five thirty.” And the moment four started I said, “Okay, guys, tell you what I’d like to do is whatever is on your heart, I’d like you to first, let’s thank God. And then any issues that are going on in your life that you’d like to pray about.” And they don’t know each other. I said, “Are you ready?” And they are looking at me, “Yeah. Let’s pray.”

And I said, “You know, rather than that how everyone prays maybe once and then we move on, I’m going to set my phone for fifteen minutes.” So, you can pray once, twice, we can pray conversationally. It’s on the dot, four o’clock. We start praying. Guess what happens if you’re late. You’re walking into a room with a bunch of people praying and you go, “Oh my gosh.”

And then the first round of praying is like, “Oh, Lord, you know.” Normal. And then it gets a little bit more honest, a little bit more honest, and then I have a thing that I take them through. And my first question is, “Tell me, just tell me a little, your story. Just give me a sense of you, your life, your journey, family, where you work.” And they go around and we are getting to know each other. And then I ask this question, “Tell me your relationship with God’s Word.” “What?” “Yeah, tell me your relationship with God’s Word.”

Because according to Jesus and the parable of the soils, your relationship to the Word reveals and determines your relationship with the Lord. No exceptions. The parable of the soils was the kingdom, the secrets and the mysteries of the kingdom. And God’s truth goes forth and it lands on four kinds of hearts and there are four different responses. Only one produces fruit. But if there’s no even truth going in…

And so, these are leaders. So, the first one is a doctor. He says, “Well, I,” pulls out his phone and he goes, “My life is really busy and I’ve got three kids and the practice is really heavy and so, I open YouVersion and I read the verse of the day.”

That’s it. I mean, I had to sort of, you know, I don’t want to be judgmental, so it’s like, you know, very calm. “Oh, okay.” “And I try and think about that verse.” “Okay, great, next?” “Uh, I’m really running a really big company and it’s, I, it’s really important and I usually leave a little bit before six and I work out. And sometimes I try to listen a little bit to the Bible maybe when I’m on the thing, but I’m not very disciplined at that. But, I mean, it’s the Silicon Valley, man. You can’t imagine the pressure. And then I get home about eight thirty and I try to at least tuck my kids in bed.”

“Okay, next?” “Um, you know, I don’t know exactly why you asked me, but I’m not only not reading the Bible, my marriage is in trouble and I’m not sure it’s going to make it.” And so, he talks for a while and… “Next?”

And so, they, we got near the end of that one and they know me. And, you know, I knew of them. So, they know I’m very direct. And so, I had asked them a question about your dreams and your future and your kids and etcetera like this.

And I said as calmly as I could, I said, “Men, it’s a real privilege and I appreciate what you’re doing and serving in the church. I want to make a comment and this is going to be very, very important.” Because I talk a different way with people out like this than I do with leaders.

I said, “I want each one of you to know that the dreams and the hopes that you shared, your current trajectory, I will tell you for certain, they will not happen in your life. And you will have heartache and pain and family breakup and a life that is not what you expect. And I can guarantee that, because none of you are in the Scriptures.”

I came home and I said, “Theresa, I’m shutting the group down. I’m not going back.” And she said, “Why?” I said, “These are our leaders? I’m the pastor of the church. I actually know who is teaching most of the time. And this is what we are producing?”

There is no life too busy. “Man can’t live by bread alone, but only by the Word of God.” “The Word of God is living and active, and sharper than a two-edged sword, and pierces to the division of soul and spirit and joint and marrow and reveals the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” “Thy Word was found and I ate it and it became for me the joy and the delight of my soul.” “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for…” it’s the equipper, it’s the changer, it’s the power. God takes the written Word, makes it the living Word, develops convictions, and transforms your life. It’s the renewing of your mind.

And so, I thought I was pretty tough on them, and Theresa said, “Don’t stop the group, Chip, you’re just emotional.” I said, “You’re right.” So, I went back and I’m thinking: This is going to get better. I mean, I hit them pretty hard. But my deal is if you’re a leader, if you can’t take getting hit hard, go do something else. Man, this is the kingdom of God. These are people’s souls. We’re not trying to run a company; we’re not trying to go public. This is forever stuff. You’ve got to take this seriously.

So, you know, they all got together. And we had good fellowship and, by the way, they were all great guys and all great leadership. So, “Guys, you know, before we get started,” we had our prayer time, “could you share with me your relationship with the Word of God?” “Pfffh.” So, I thought, Okay. I said, “Guys,” we got to the third week, I said, “You know, what, this leadership stuff is pointless.” And I said, “We are going to learn to get into the Bible together in a way that you can understand it and practice it.” And I had a couple resources that I felt have always helped me and I got those guys together.

And the one guy, and I say this because, I mean, he got in the Bible and God spoke to him. Pretty soon, his wife is coming to me, she goes, “What did you do?” I said, “It’s not me.” “I’ve got a new husband. I mean, he comes home, we eat as a family. In fact,” okay, you’ve got to get this sort of over the top, “he’s having a Bible study. He and these other men at nine o’clock five nights a week!” I’m thinking that might be a little over the top.

The guy that used to get up and work out started to get into God’s Word. About six weeks later, he said, “You know, it’s an amazing thing to eat dinner with your family. I’m tucking my kids in bed. The friction in my marriage is gone.”

The guy whose marriage was falling apart really struggled and these guys got around him. He goes, “Well,” he was a football star and finally I said, “You know, are you willing to put in to be the man of God that you did to become the football star and play in these pro leagues?” And then he did. That guy is the boldest Christian I think I know.

Mark my word, we are in the last days and all those things that you read in there are going to happen more and more and more. And there’s going to be a group of people that will live by faith and faith comes by hearing and hearing by the [Word].

And they are going to be promise-centered people that God is going to use to do the greatest things that have ever happened on the face of the earth. Or they will be problem-centered people that will live in fear and anxiety, and they’ll find some group to blame or some other person and they’ll sit around whining in coffee shops talking about how terrible everything is and who is wrong and who is bad instead of being an instrument of righteousness, equipped for every good work.

God is going to equip me, God is going to protect me, He wants to use me right where I am, in my network, with my family. And I’m going to sow righteousness because if you sow to the flesh, corruption. When you sow to the Spirit, righteousness, life, grace.