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Be Prepared - Don't Be Surprised (2 Timothy 3), Part 1

From the series Becoming an Effective Disciple Maker

Have you ever been blindsided by something?… Maybe it was an unexpected diagnosis, a sudden end to a relationship, or a shocking betrayal. In this program, Chip opens his Bible to 2nd Timothy chapter 3, and shares how we should respond to evil when it interrupts our lives. You’re not gonna wanna miss this insightful program, from our series, Becoming an Effective Disciple Maker.V

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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.