2021 – The Others
Paul’s Last Letter 6
Throughout this year, we have been exploring principles about how to interact with the Others. We have learned some remarkable principles, already! Such as…
#5) In Christ all are one! Reconciliation is based on relationship in Christ. Forgiveness is based on connection to Christ! We forgive… as Christ forgives us.
#7) I am an Ambassador of Reconciliation! We have the awesome job of bringing the world back to God. Our glory is God’s glory in making the world right!
#8) Fear must not impede the Gospel being taken to the Others! Fear cannot drive the bus. Get on the bus. Be the bus… drive the bus!
#10) Be a holy bowl! Clean your bowls of argumentative, crude, false, ignorant talk. Serve your bowl of words with kindness, full of the truth, in enduring gentleness. Conversations are bowl-gifts.
This morning, I have discovered another principle of interrelating with the Others. Principle #11 there is a group of Others… we are not to interrelate with. There is an Other that we are to avoid. “Seriously, Tim, there is a group of people we are not supposed to have a relationship with?” There is. This idea is hard for me to absorb. “We should engage anyone and everyone. The love of God is for all.” Maybe, so, but Paul tells Timothy there are certain people that Timothyshould avoid! Listen to a variety of translations from 2 Timothy 3:5…
ESV Avoid such people
NIV Have nothing to do with them.
NRS Avoid them!
NLT You must stay away from people like that.
DBH Turn away from these men.
Yikes… questions immediately pop in our minds…
--Who are these people we are to avoid?
--What do these guys do that make us avoid them?
--How can we stay away from them?
--When is this group going to appear?
Stay calm… Stay calm… I hate it when people tell me to stay calm… it just makes me… less calm. Anyway, Stay Calm… Let’s answer each of these four questions about avoiding “them”.
Question 1… Who are these guys?
2 Timothy 3:2-5,13 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 13 …evil people, impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
It is hard for me, I suspect it is hard for you, to actually believe there are people in the world who are without heart. It is hard for us to comprehend there are some people who actually do not connect, emotionally, with anyone else. There are people who are so much lovers of self that there is no love left for anyone else. Words come to mind… narcissistic… selfish… egotistical… even, sociopath.
There are people in the world who are! Notice Paul’s combinations…
--lovers of self – lovers of money – to love money is to love self!
--proud – arrogant – My mom says – something on a stick… They just exude superiority.
--Abusive – disobedient to parents – these people abuse those who love them.
--ungrateful – unholy – to be ungrateful is to be unclean before God. Can’t say thank you.
--Heartless – unappeasable – is to be without normal love such that they cannot be connected. No sensitivity towards fellow human beings… no contentment…
--slanderously out of control – speaking bad of others constantly
--brutal, no love of good – They are not touched by the suffering of others
--Treacherous – reckless – they are reckless as they betray anyone…else
--Swollen with conceit so they love pleasure rather than love of God.
I don’t think there is anything harsher in Scripture than this description. There are nineteen items in this list, seven of which are not found anywhere else in the New Testament. There is a real warning here. It is hard for me to conceive of such people who are not, at all, touched by the hurt of others.
The scariest part is… They have the appearance of godliness. These people are imposters! They pretend to be ministers of the Gospel. They pretend to be loving teachers. They pretend to care for the hurting. They are false ministers in the church. They are religious scammers. These evil people are disguising themselves as preachers of the Gospel… as teachers of the love of God. Looking good… but not having the good from God within them. Nothing worse.
It is hard for me to conceive that such evil people exist. But this is a real warning to Timothy and to us… avoid such people.
Question 2… What do these guys do?
2 Timothy 3:6-9 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.
These imposters creep… worm there way in… insinuate themselves into households to take advantage of the weak. There is some interesting backstory here that could help us understand what is going on.
--Timothy is in Ephesus working with the church there.
--Ephesus, at the time, housed the big Temple to Aphrodite the goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, passion and procreation. It was a big deal.
--In the temple of Aphrodite… were priestess who, both, ran their religion and offered themselves in worship as temple prostitutes.
--Let’s speculate a little bit… suppose some of these religious women, these priestesses became Christians… Their lives would suddenly change. They would feel the guilt of their past… They would be susceptible to these evil creepy imposters. Worming their way into their lives and robbing them of their money. Taking advantage of their weakness.
That is a possible scenario… but the point is, these imposters took advantage of the weak.
--Like those who would take advantage of the aging, today.
--Like those who would prey on kids.
--Like those who would trick the not too bright people with all kinds of scams.
--Porch-pirates… I just heard that term…
It is hard for me to understand the mind of someone who would call me and claim to be with the IRS and they are coming to arrest me for owing back taxes… unless I call this number…
--The heartless who prey upon the trusting.
But it gets worse… These guys are more like false Televangelists. They pretend to be able to work miracles… like Jannes and Jambres who opposed Moses. FYI Jannes and Jambres are not in the Bible, other than in this verse. According to the Jewish tradition
Jannes and Jambres are the names of two of the magicians who challenged Moses by doing miracles.
Exodus 7:10-12 So, Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the LORD commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers and they, (Jannes and Jambres), the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs.
False workers of miracles. These imposters wormed their way into the gullible and took advantage of the weak. But they will not last long… God is going to deal with them… like he did with Pharoah’s magicians.
Back to the main point… avoid such people. Implied… Timothy is to help the weak avoid such people!
Question 3… How do we avoid them?
Here is the good part of the sermon. We learn to recognize and then, avoid when we follow good examples of righteousness.
2 Timothy 3:10-13 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra- which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
We learn to spot imposters by connecting to the genuine… I like the classic illustration… When they teach the Secret Service agents to detect counterfeit money, they show them the real stuff. Paul tells Timothy… “follow my example”.
Line up these nine in opposition to the 9 imposter couplets.
--My teaching… Our theology drives our behaviors. The model of Jesus on the cross is our model of behavior… We know our God… we detect the false.
--My Conduct – we learn how to react by following good models… compare conduct. This is how true Christians behave… OK that is an imposter.
--My aim in life – the prothesis… having a positive thesis for life… write a pro-thesis for your life! Explore others’ purpose. The heartless are pro-money!
--My faith – faithfulness… consistent faith… Trust in the God of love… scammers never trust.
--My patience… working with others… imposters are not patient.
--My agape… my doing what is best for the others… The evil has no love.
--My steadfastness… remaining around… follow the example of those who have been at the faith for years… the imposters never hang around very long.
--My Persecutions and suffering… The imposter will never suffer for the Christ.
Paul reminds Timothy of what happened to him in Timothy’s home town… Paul was stoned and left for dead in Timothy’s city… perhaps he was a witness.
We follow around models of faith. The power of the church is the encouragement of faithful people helping to keep us safe.
One last question…
Question 4… When are they coming?
2 Timothy 3:1-2 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self…
There is some disagreement amongst the scholars as to what Paul means by “the last days”. Some scholars think Paul and his followers believed Jesus would return in his lifetime. There is some evidence this is the case… Notice the “we’s”…
1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
Paul, early in his writings, -Thessalonians is one of his first- may have believed that he was a “we” who would still be alive. That the return of Jesus would happen in their lifetimes. But, later in his writings, in 2 Timothy Paul assumes he will be executed soon. He no longer views himself as the “we” who are alive. It is possible that Paul viewed the “last days” as beginning with the evil imposters that had popped up in Ephesus.
But there is another way to look at the words… “Last Days”. Paul’s thinking may have divided time into the “former days” and “last days”.
Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
1 Corinthians 10:11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.
Hebrews 1:1-2 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these “last days: he has spoken to us by his Son…
Paul could simply be saying that in the last age, the Gospel age, the times of the Son, there will be evil imposters who take advantage of the Gospel.
No major point here… I’m ok with either view… Either way… we are still in those “last days” when imposters are present. It is hard to believe that evil hearted people want to take advantage of the weak… but it is true.
Principle #11 on interrelating to the Others. There are some Others you need to avoid.
Let’s expand this principle just a bit. There may be people you do not need to connect to. Beyond the Gospel scammers, there may be unhealthy people that you need to avoid.
--Obviously a recovering addict needs to be careful of the drug users.
--The alcoholic with the bar crowd.
--The abused with abusers.
--The discouraged with the hateful.
--There are people who are heartless who just suck the life out of you.
General principle: any Other who is not going to be healthy for you or you be helpful for them; a lose-lose situation you may need to use discernment to conclude you need to avoid such people. You are not required to associate with every Other person.
Romans 16:16-18 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you. I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.
March 21, 2021
Los Alamos Church of Christ
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