II TIMOTHY 3:1-5: “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” NKJV
OBSERVATION: Is there any hope for the church in America? As we witness major denominations leaving the tenants of the faith and young people turning their back on the church – is there any hope? Is the current trend a result of using the wrong approach to reach the next generation or is it something entirely different?
When I read the first five verses of Paul’s second letter to Timothy, I must confess, I have generally thought of the condition of the world during the end-times when I have read it. Yet, Paul is not writing to Timothy about the conditions of our culture.
Paul is writing to Timothy about the conditions of the Church!
The warning is that much more to be heeded and understood in this light. The time would come when there was little difference between the world and the church. The fruit of the Spirit would be sparse but the fruit of the flesh would flourish. Much like Israel’s history, it would be business as usual in the life of the church, all the while the walls would be burning down all around us. Paul summarizes the future spiritual condition of the church when he writes,
- “…Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.”
The veneer of godliness would continue. Pews and seats would still be filled. Worship would continue as usual. There would be church socials and potluck dinners. Philanthropic works would be pursued as a means of outward righteousness. Yet, the true heart condition would be grave. In all of this pomp and circumstance, man’s heart would be far from the Lord. Like the church of Laodecia, services would be taking place, but Jesus would be on the outside knocking at the door!
- “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—”. Revelation 3:17 NKJV
Is there any hope? What do we need to do to turn the tide? Do we need to change our style of worship? Do we need to alter our approach from the pulpit to reach the present culture? Do we need more social justice and a greater sense of tolerance in the expression of our faith? Or, are we searching for the answers in all the wrong places?
The hope for the church today, the hope for its purpose and mission, has not changed from the day Paul wrote this letter to young Timothy. The mission of the church, the message of the Gospel, has never been about style or presentation. It has always been about content. When the message from the pulpit becomes watered down, when our popularity becomes more important than our purity, we see the effects of this in our hearts and lives.
So what does Paul recommend to young Timothy to stem the tide? Does he counsel Timothy to change worship styles or to focus his messages on popular topics and themes?
NO! Paul calls young Timothy (and today’s church) back to the basics!
- “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” II Timothy 3:14-17 NKJV
Paul calls Timothy back to the Holy Scriptures. Paul calls Timothy back to the foundation of his faith in Christ Jesus. When the focus of the church becomes redirected from the Holy Scriptures we see the manifestation of this in the heart and lives of its members. There is only one thing that can bring us to a knowledge of our sin and our need for a Savior. There is only one thing that can lead us to salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord. There is only one thing that can teach us, correct us, and lead us into righteousness.
IT IS THE WORD OF GOD – THE HOLY SCRIPTURES!
Only God’s Word divides between the soul and spirit, the joint and the marrow, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Only God’s Word keeps us from error and excess. Only God’s Word convicts our hearts and keeps them from growing cold. The church does not need larger worship teams, more media, polished presentations, and graphics.
The Church needs to return to – GOD’S WORD!
Whenever the church has positioned itself in repentance, humbled itself in prayer, and turned to God’s Word – there has been a revival. I believe God is calling us today to do the same. We need to see a revival in church today where the Scriptures are not merely put on the screen but are carried, cherished, and read by every person who enters the door of the church. The reading of Scripture must be given priority once again. Pastors and leaders must realize this important truth,
The power of God is not in our presentation. The power of God is manifest only by the Spirit of God working through – GOD’S WORD!
- “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Lord, turn my heart toward you in sincere repentance. Give me a humble and contrite heart. Renew within me the joy of Your salvation and give me a renewed hunger for Your Holy Word!
In Jesus’ Name!