From Such Turn Away

2 Timothy 3:1-5 King James Version

3 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;

Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

This is quite a list of people to turn away from.  The admonishment is not that we should not witness to these people groups mentioned here.  We MUST witness to them, but in the loving, gentle, patient way that we talked about in our last lesson.  The people on this list are certainly opposing themselves, and must learn to restore themselves to the place where God can guide their path.  They have lost their way and will have a hard time coming back if we are not apt to help them along.  The types of people mentioned here are indeed the hardest of all to witness to as well.  Most are so full of themselves there is no room for anyone else, especially God.  But if we can help to get just a little bit of themselves put to the side, there is where our opportunity is to chare the gospel with them.  We must watch for these moments carefully and take advantage when we see them arise.

The condition of these men is the reason perilous times have come.  When more and more people start to act on the manners described here our society starts to break down.  People will not care as much about others.  The neighborly manner in which we treat each other will slowly vanish.  Responsibility for one’s actions will disappear and accountability will vanish.  As a result, people will think they can do whatever they want with impunity.  If they are called out for their immoral behavior, the one who is on the right side will be called wring and will face persecution.  Right will become wrong and wrong will become right.  The biblical morality we once lived by will be replaced by an ever-changing worldly morality that will cater to the whim of those who have given into the lusts of the world. 

Can anyone truly deny that we are currently seeing this happen today more than just 10 years ago?  I can give a hundred examples of this but I will stick with a few.  We see school shootings and mass shootings going up all the time. Instead of centering on the critical problem that is driving these shootings, we say it’s the fault of the gun that person is handling.  Instead of doing a better job tracking and tacking care of those with mentality issues. We let them loose on a society that has little protection from them.  Instead of defending our schools in practical ways we simply lock the doors, making it even worse if a shooter does get in somehow.  The shooter is rarely held accountable as they should be.  They get a prison cell where they are catered to and the taxpayer pays for their life to the tune of $50,000 a year.  There they can finally get the help they need, but they rarely do.  Here we see these attributes form the list above: disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, fierce, despisers of those that are good.

The second example I will site is the prevalence of the gender identity discussion.  We are adding genders all the time instead of just looking at a person and knowing what sex they are biologically.  I hear on Facebook you can now choose from 56 different genders when choosing a sexual identity.  We wonder why our children are confused?  In our schools, it is taught that it does not matter if you identify as any of these genders.  All should be accepted for who they are and what they are.  In many states it is against the law to council those that are claiming such status as is against their biological identity.  You have to let them do whatever they want to do.  I cannot imagine what our society will look like when the next generation takes over.  It will be sexual nirvana for those who are raised in it, but total sexual chaos for everyone else.  In the list above, we see lovers of their own selves, covetousness, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, without natural affection and blasphemers in this group.

This is only the beginning of what we are seeing today.  Our society is falling farther short of the glory of God every day and people are caring less and less about it.  In fact, our minds are being numbed to what God wants as our ability to express disgust with these things is challenged more and more by what is becoming the mainstream.  Godly ways are called wrong, worldly passions are indulged in and no one seems to care.  It is harder and harder to find someone that will stand up for what is right and decent.  Harder and harder to speak the truth.  Harder and harder to witness to those whose hearts are gone so far away.

We must turn away from hanging around with such people all the time because we might get pulled into their own ditches and mistruths.  We might find ourselves sympathizing with them.  We must turn away from all these practices, which I am not going to try and explain one by one.  We must turn away from close friendships that might entangle us.  But we cannot turn away from doing everything we can to get them to trust us sop that we might bring the truth to them.  And we must present that truth in the method that Paul explains at the end of the previous chapter: with gentleness, patience and meekness.  We must slowly instruct them in the ways of a God who loves them just as much as He loves us.  God’s desire is to have them turn from their ungodly ways, to stop opposing themselves and to come back to Him.  Can we be such witnesses for the Lord?  They may all look on the outside like they are godly but they do not know God’s power to save.  Many would love to be saved from their ways, but they deny there is a power that can do that.  We must show them the power of God unto salvation that is Jesus Christ.  They need that power to touch their lives, and we can be the instrument of God to make that happen.  Let us not leave them to the devil’s whims.  Let us shine our light so brightly that they will be drawn to us!

Instruct Those that Oppose Themselves

2 Timothy 2:24-26 King James Version

 

24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,

25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;

26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

 

What an interesting thought.  People that oppose themselves!  They are their own worst enemy.  Have you ever heard someone say that?  “I am my own worst enemy.”  I have – it was me.  Oh, I was having a good time.  Drinking all through the night, smoking pot, hanging with friends, enjoying good food and good times on a regular basis.  I was making good money and travelling where I wanted, when I wanted. I worked as a computer programmer back in the big computer era in the early 70’s, before PC’s even started to be thought of.  I was doing well.  I lacked nothing that I wanted.

 

But I was drowning.  Drowning in a sea of despair.  When I was alone, I was really alone.  I knew I needed more but I had no idea what that more was.  I was raised in the church, but had put it behind me and taken on the life of an agnostic.  I knew there was some power out there, but had no idea who it was.  I thought I was headed to heaven, but I was bound for hell and I didn’t even know what that meant.  We made jokes about partying in hell, not knowing what really awaited us there.  I was indeed my own worst enemy.  I opposed myself at every turn.  Thinking I was making the right turns when all the time I was going left.  I was lost!

 

I am so thankful for the men and women who slowly led me to the right place.  They took on the attributes mentioned here.  Gentle, patient teachers who were humble and approached me with meekness.  They instructed me about Jesus, about His love, about His mercy, about His sacrifice.  Over time I learned how to walk with the Lord and stop doing things that would oppose the spirit within me.  There are still times that the old man rises up again and tries to oppose me, but I have an adversary now.  I have one who will come alongside and help me through any situation I may get into.  He keeps me from opposing myself.

 

Now it is my turn to help those who oppose themselves, to pass on the blessing that has been given to me.  But I must do it the right way.  I cannot force Christ on them.  I cannot force them to conform to my idea of what serving Jesus means.  I must not strive with the, argue with them, manipulate them or be angry with them.  Paul gives us a great formula here for winning the lost to Christ.  First, we must be gentle.  Our words and our actions must be alluring so that they want to hear what we have to say.  We should not come from a position of power, but of meekness.  We must be patient with them as they try to find their way out of their own way.  Too often we get stuffed up in our pride and think they should come to maturity sooner.  We forget that they have been opposing themselves for a long time.  Transformation of the mind does not happen overnight!  It can take years to come out of the bondage and chaos that a troubled mind can leave.  Believe Me, I know.  But God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all we can think or imagine! (Ephesians 3:20).  We have a mandate to tell people about this amazing God we serve.  He is the one who sets the captive free!  Those who are in opposition to themselves will find the greatest advocate of all time when we introduce them to Jesus.

 

The truth is that those who oppose themselves are in the enemy’s clutches.  He has them right where he wants them, and has no desire tom let them go.  It is our responsibility to help them find themselves, to recover themselves, and become the person God designed them to be, not the one the enemy has tricked them into.  I was tricked by the enemy into a lifestyle of drugs, booze and sex.  The riches of this world trapped me into believing I was fulfilling the plan for my life.  But I was not even close to it.  I was in such opposition to the plan God had for me that I would not even begin to see His plan.  God’s plan was for me to be His witness, my plan was to be isolated and alone.  God’s plan was to have me minister the word; my plan was to hurt people with my words.   God’s plan was for me to sing the songs he gave me, my plan was to sing in silence.  God’s plan was there all the time but I did not see it.  I had to recover myself before I could see it.  The real me that God had created needed to be turned into the clay so the potter could mold it.  I was in the enemy’s hands.

 

I was so glad when God finally urged me into His plan.  There is so much more peace here.  So much more joy and so much more love.  There is little to fear and so much to be thankful for.  There is little doubt about who God wants me to be and a lot of faith that I can become that person.  Don’t get me wrong.  I still oppose myself at times.  There are still times that I do not walk where I should walk.  There are times the snare of the enemy tries to capture me once again.  But I have been set free and am no longer bound by it.  When the snare catches me, God quickly opens it and I escape.  That’s how much He loves me, and He loves you too!

 

How about you?  Are you opposing yourself today?  Are you living a life that is not in line with what God wants for you?  I ask you to come out of that place.  Come meet the Savior, Jesus Christ.  He can help you recover the real you and walk with God once again.  Just trust Him!

 

Free Youthful Lusts

2 Timothy 2:22-23 King James Version (KJV)

 22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.23 But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes

One of my youthful ways was to start something and never finish.  It has dragged into my older years as well.  I apologize for the long delay in getting started again with this blog.  There is no excuse to keeping you hanging for the next lesson.  It is time to get the ball rolling again and I pray you will enjoy what God has for us today

There are things in my life that I just have to run away from. I want to think I can stand up and fight those things by the power of Jesus Christ.  I want to believe that I can declare I am free of them and have the weight of those lusts drop from my shoulders.  I want to think I am strong enough in the Lord to stay away from them.  But the truth is that I must flee from them.  Run as fast as I can when they rise up to once again torment me.  These things have been with me since my youth.  They have attacked me for a long time and I cannot stand against them.  If I try to confront the, I will fall.  I must run and run swiftly.  That is the only way to overcome them.

Instead of following them, Paul gives us a few things we must follow after, or run toward as we are fleeing those youthful lusts.  The word Paul uses for follow means to pursue with all haste, or to earnestly desire to overtake.  It is a strong word that indicates we must go all out in this endeavor.  The half hearted one will not be able to continue this pursuit.  He will be turned back to his youthful lusts and feal that devastating blow of defeat.  We must pursue these things with all that is within us.. There are few things more important than a pursuit of righteousness, faith, charity and peace.  Let’s look at these attributes and see why it is so important to pursue them, besides the fact that pursuing these will keep us from our sins.

Righteousness leads the list.  Following things that are good and right in the Lords eye will distance us from the things that are bad.  Remember the admonishments in Deuteronomy 27 and 28?  Those that follow after God are blessed.  Those who follow His righteous ways have so many blessings they cannot contain them.  They are surrounded by them and flooded with them.  It is unavoidable as we look through the Bible to see that the ones who follow after doing good are blessed beyond measure.  From Noah to Moses to David to Peter, all go from obscurity to powerful men who bring down strongholds in other peoples lives.  They have a witness that transcends time.  What can God do through you if you just follow after righteousness?  How will you be blessed by this kind of walk?  On the other hand, look at the curses that come upon those that do not follow His ways, listed in Deuteronomy 28.  It is not because God curses them, but because they follow after the wrong things, their youthful lusts, and this is the inevitable outcome.  Doing good and right things can only lead to blessings in your life.

Following faith is next.  Why would we turn from this after we got saved?  After all, the greatest gift God gives is salvation, and that is taken into our life by faith!  Why would we turn our backs on a lie of faith once we got saved?  It is the allure of those youthful lusts that turns us around.  It takes no faith whatsoever to follow our youthful lusts.  They promise fleshly pleasure and they usually deliver.  But our soul is left damaged, and we once again turn to faith that God will deliver us from our sins.  Faith is always standing at the door and knocking to open up and let us come out of that bondage and into the blessing of the Lord.  Faith can move those mountains, part those waters, wake up those dead bones,  and set the captive free. Faith can open your blinded sprit and deaf ears to the things of God.  Faith can deliver those around you fro sickness, pain, suffering, financial woes, depression and all sorts of things that plague our flesh.  Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “Without faith it is impossible to please God, but those who come to Him must believe that he is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”  Living a life of faith is one of the most powerful things we can do.

Following charity is third on the list.  This is the same word that Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 13.  We will often transpose the word love in here, and that is OK as long as we remember what kind of love we are talking about.  It is not the wishy-washy love of the world that is here today and gone tomorrow.  It is not the kind of love that just gets a girl to say yes and is then gone.  It is not the kind of love that gets an ”I do” from someone only to turn it into an “I don’t anymore” a few years later.  The world is unfamiliar with this kind of love, or charity.  This is the kind that says I will give my only Son so you can go free.  This kind of love never dies, but instead it is there for us when all others turn away.  This post could really get long if I dive into 1 Corinthians 13, which is the chapter that defines the kind of charity we are supposed to have.  Just verse 7 is enough, which says that this kind of ,love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.  Without diving into all 4 of these attributes I ask you to go to God and have Him reveal what these 4 things mean to your life and your relationships.  Take up the challenge of following this pattern and you will not have time to return to those ways of the past.

The fourth thing we must follow after is peace.  Those of us who are plagued with youthful lusts are also plagued with the sense that, even if I do flee them, eventually I will return to them so what is the point.  The inner struggle within is rages daily and we want so badly to go back to those things for the short, pleasurable gratification they give.  It is not a peaceful place to be.  And then the moment we act out again, the moment we tur around from our flight, peace leaves us because sin has entered in and the enemy of our souls comes to condemn us once again..  This is when we need peace more than any other time.  The enemy cannot bring chaos where God has brought calm.  Be at peace.  Follow after peace.  Do not let condemnation come upon you, for once you do that lust, that sin, will only draw you in deeper and hold onto you tighter.  But if you rest in the Salvation of the Lord and turn back to Him, peace will once again enter in, knowing that the Lord has already forgiven you. He did that on the cross, remember?  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  He has forgiven you already.  Receive that forgiveness and walk in peace.

The last admonishment in  verse 22 is to follow men who call on God with a  pure heart.  There are good men of God in this world, and there are bad.  There are true teachers of the word and false prophets.  Make sure you are following those who serve God with a pure heart.  Those that are rightly dividing the word of God.  There are those who retranslate the Bible to fit their philosophy, or religion, e judged in the last days and exposed for their deceit.  I know I can follow my Pastor.  I have never met a man with such a pure heart for the things of God.  He shows love at every turn and will do anything he can to be a blessing to others.  He follows those things that are listed above at all times.  Paul tells us to follow him as he follows Christ.  Can you make that statement.  Do you follow Christ with a  pure heart?

Verse 23 tells us to stay away from foolish and unlearned questions.  Keep the main thing the main thing!  We are to spread the Gospel, the good news of Jesus life, death and resurrection.  We are to take the message of salvation to everyone we meet.  Don’t let them drag you into a dogfight over eschatology, or the evils in this world, or why so and so had to die.  Keep the main thing the main thing.  Jesus Christ came to earth as a baby in a manger, taught us the truths of God, suffered an agonizing death on a cross and then rose again to heaven to bring us salvation and eternal life.  All who call upon His name shall be saved.  Tell them that!

Purged and Prepared

2 Timothy 2:20-21 King James Version (KJV)

20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.
21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.

There is no denying that sin is in each one of us. We can do all the good deeds God assigns to us, we can give until there is nothing more to give and we can love with an unending devotion, but there will still be sin within us of some kind. For some it is more evident than others. Some may struggle with pornography, others with gossip, others with backbiting or complaining all the time. The way Paul says it here is enlightening to me. He calls this a great house. A great house is worthy of honor and is highly respected. It is seen as a place where good things dwell and where mercies are given out. It is a house that has a lot of honorable vessels in it. Vessels that can deliver good things to those who enter the house. But there are also vessels of dishonor, of wood and earth. These vessels will not survive the fiery trials that may come into the house. They may be useful for some purposes, but not an everlasting purpose.

I would imagine if Paul expanded on this a little bit, he would say that a house that is not so great would have more vessels of dishonor than the great house does. There will still be vessels of honor there, but not as many good deeds and not as much desire to fulfill God’s purpose. These houses are much more common than the great houses as we all know. There are also houses that have vastly more vessels of honor than dishonor. In other words, there are all kinds of houses in this world, some with more honor and some with less. Some with more dishonor and some with less.

Of course by now we all know that this analogy describes the human condition, not just a house. It brings out the fact that there is good and bad in all of us. None is perfect except Jesus himself. We all have good things inside us, vessels of honor that we can offer up to God at any time. But we also have bad things, vessels of dishonor, that must be purged from our life in order to bring God glory. The question is: What kind of vessels are you carrying around? Do you carry vessels of honor, like mercy, grace, kindness, patience, joy and other attributes that will assist those around you to know Christ. Or do you carry vessels of dishonor, like grumbling, moaning, complaining, backbiting, pride, gossip, irreverence, hypocrisy and other attributes that bring shame to Christ? Whatever vessels you carry will reflect on Jesus and His witness within you.

This is why we must purge the bad vessels out of our life and make room for the vessels of honor. If the church looks the same as the world, why would anyone want any part of it? This is exactly what is happening in many churches and denominations right now. The church is looking more and more like the world because it’s members are full of vessels of dishonor and the world doesn’t need more of that. They get enough of that from outside the church. God is looking for a people that will bring their vessels to be filled with His goodness, righteousness and all other Godly attributes. He wants us to bring our vessels just as the woman did with Elijah. Every vessel she could find was filled with oil to give her life again. Every vessel we can purge from the dishonorable things in life, and bring to Jesus, will be filled with honorable things.

I’m not sure about you but I know that God has more for me on this earth. He is not done with me yet! Moses started his ministry when he was 80 and I’m only 68. I have many years left that I can make an impact in this world and I intend to do just that. I have a great desire to touch others with the poetry and songs I hear on almost a daily basis. I have no doubt that you have the same desire deep within your heart. Ephesians 3:20 tells us that God can do exceedingly, abundantly more than we can think or imagine by the power that works within us. He has plans for us that we can’t possibly comprehend until we have purged out the dishonorable vessels and replaced them with honorable ones ready to be filled. Once these dishonorable things are gone, we become sanctified and ready for the master’s use. God cannot sanctify a filthy vessel. It must be purged of dishonor. The things of this earth must be put ion the back seat – better yet in the trunk. The word sanctify means to set apart. Why would God set aside a vessel that is not honorable? He would not. He would make sure the dishonorable things were gone from that vessel before he would set it apart for His use. Sometimes I think we forget this. I know I do. I keep asking God to do great things with me, yet I am unwilling to put aside the things in me that do not bring him honor,. He simply will not do that. If I really want God to bring greater things into my life, my desires must be put aside, my dishonorable vessels must be destroyed and purged out of my system, and I must come to a place where I bring Him honor in all I do. This is something very few are willing to do. It’s always one step away, one worldly desire away. When will I learn to just take that extra step and give Him all I have?

It is at that moment that we purge ourselves of these dishonorable vessels that we are prepared for every good work that he would have us do. There are so many things he would have us do and we are only holding ourselves back. The church today is shrinking back from the enemy, the culture is moving away from the church, and false religions are rising up around us. When will we wake up and see that God has so much more for us to do. When will we learn that it is us who God wants to use? When will I learn?