Published 12:00 pm Monday, March 18, 2024

“But know this that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves … having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” — 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NKJV)

Please read these five verses to get a clear understanding of the depth of depravity and disobedience that Paul is warning young Timothy to prepare himself for. What is most troubling about these verses is that Paul is speaking to Timothy concerning those who will be in his congregations.

The phrase “having a form of godliness” tells us that these are (in effect) members of the early Church; that the phrase continues with “but denying its power” affirms their lack of commitment to Jesus and His righteousness. When a life is committed to Him, His power brings about changes in that life that are unmistakable and undeniable; to deny (or negate) God’s power is the work of an unrighteous life and of one not committed to Christ.

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It is not merely an accidental condition but one that is considered and purposeful in its desire to remain unchanged and ungodly while appearing to have many of the qualities of those who place their faith in Jesus.

Many are those who know all of the “church words” and who also attend services regularly yet in their hearts they deny God’s word access to their soul and refuse the invitation to change. They can’t change because they will not change; they are “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, proud, blasphemers … and from such people turn away!” Strong words to young Timothy; strong words for us today, especially to the ungodly who present themselves as righteous members of the Church.

There is the litmus test: presenting themselves as members of the Church, when there allegiance to Christ Jesus is merely a pretense, with no desire to be redeemed from a life of sin. They present themselves as righteous and holy, when the reality is that they are neither, as Jude said “They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit” (Jude 12b).

Because they have no interest in being a contributing part of the Church, they bear no fruit (clouds without water, trees without fruit). Paul warns young Timothy, and us, to stay clear of such impostors. Their behavior reveals their lack of desire for a relationship with God.

The Rev. Bobby Thornhill is a retired pastor.