2. The State of the Church!
The Bible speaks allot about the end times, and especially the church, or the body of Christ, in relation to them. Throughout the Word, we are forewarned that these end times, will be troublesome, turbulent times, seasons of great upheaval and persecution toward the children of God. The Word also relays the spiritual condition that many who call themselves Christians will be in as these times unfold.
For some unexplained reason, since it has no Biblical foundation, many are living with the expectation of a great outpouring of repentance and brokenness on a global scale in these end times, when in reality the Bible paints a very different and somewhat disturbing picture of what these times will be.
2 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!”
There is much to process in these five verses, but the first thing we must come to terms with is that Paul is not referring to the unsaved, he is not referring to those of the world, but to those within the church.
Why would I say this? Because the world has always been evil, the world has always been enamored with money and self, it has always been filled with boasters and proud men, but all these things plus many more have only been evident recently within the house of God. Preaching greed from the pulpit, making money a substitute god, associating pride with righteousness, boasting of one’s accomplishments, having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof, all these are new phenomenon only in relation to the church.
I will delve deeper into these verses, but for now I want to make one more observation to back up my assertion that Paul was referring to the church when detailing what men will be like in the last days.
After listing all the signs that will accompany the last days, Paul gives a stern warning, and admonishes those who would hear that from such people we should turn away!
If Paul was speaking of the world when detailing the heart conditions of the time, then there would be no need to warn believers to stay away from such people, because they already knew they were to be separate and set apart from the world. The only way this scripture makes sense, is if these things were taking place, and easily visible within the house of God.
The first words Paul uses in the context of this scripture are ‘but know!’ It matters not what my opinion is, it matters not what I think; the Word admonishes me to know, and not be ignorant, not be caught off guard or surprised.
It is with great clarity that the Holy Spirit speaks by way of Paul and other writers concerning the last days. Just the thought of the last days causes one’s heart to race a little faster, because what we understand by the last days is in essence the end of time as we know it, the return of our beloved Lord, and the fulfillment of all that God has promised.
Throughout the Bible we are forewarned that the last days will be perilous, stressful, full of deception, the Word will be mocked, Jesus will be rejected, the believers persecuted, and the love of many will grow cold.
2 Peter 3:3-4, “Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts and saying, ‘where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”
1 John 2:18-20, “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”
Jude 17-19, “But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are worldly persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.”
Why would God, in His all knowing wisdom include such passages in the Word if they did not apply to the believer, if we were not to take them as a warning that we might prepare, cling to Jesus, increase our faith and strengthen ourselves?
The reality of the times is sobering to say the least. Not only is the Church under attack from without, but also from within, by men who readily deny the preeminence of Jesus, the need for Jesus, and the fact that He is the only way, the only truth, and the only life. Whatever one might call them, from emergent, to progressive, the reality of these men is that they walk according to their own lusts, and imaginings, denying the Christ, and forging new paths, which although lead to nowhere are made to seem like the shortcut to heaven.
Going through each dark sin of the heart that Paul mentioned would be an exhaustive study in and of itself, but one thing I need to point out is that all the other sins, from the love of money, to pride, to disobedience to absence of thankfulness or holiness, to slander, to absence of self control, are byproducts of love of self.
When men are lovers of themselves, then there is no room for the love of God in their hearts. Just as all good things are birthed out of love, all the sins of the heart are birthed out of love of self.
There have always been men who were lovers of themselves, and lovers of money, the proud and the blasphemers have always existed, but never in the history of mankind have so many been found within the church. We have lowered God’s standard, we have stopped being the watchmen He expects us to be, and the darkness has overtaken the citadel, it has invaded the house of God, and is now attempting to destroy it from within.
A great many pulpits are no longer preaching Jesus, at least not the Jesus of the Bible. We preach the self, we worship the self, we praise the self, and we still wonder why the church no longer has a voice, and we wonder why God isn’t showing up in our meetings. We have become lovers of self rather than lovers of God, and every time anyone has the courage to preach Jesus, they are verbally stoned by the masses because the ugly truth is that the masses love their lethargy. Mention anything that challenges the individual and you will be labeled an intolerant bigot, mocked and ridiculed, because rather than facing their sins most would rather simply silence the messenger.
The end result of allowing these sins into a heart unchecked and unopposed, is twofold. First, men will become lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. Second, they will have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof.
Egotism or self centeredness will always end in hypocrisy. These two sins are like the bookends of the devil’s work, with all the other vices and sins finding a home between them.
True godliness is both beautiful and necessary in the life of a true believer, but a form of godliness is ugly and dangerous. True godliness leads to life, fulfillment, sanctification, peace and joy, while a form of godliness leads to death and despair.
Although a form of godliness seems very similar to true godliness at a cursory glance, often so much so that absent the Holy Spirit and the gift of discernment one is unable to tell, one has its origins in darkness, while the other has its origins in the light of God. The great danger for many Christians today, is receiving the form, while denying the reality. A form of godliness is often more appealing to the masses than true godliness, because the form is often dressed up in fine attire, it is well organized, the religious ceremonies, and traditions providing an easy to follow plan, absent of self denial or self sacrifice. The only problem with the form is that it has neither power nor life. Having a form of godliness can be likened to having a painting of a loaf of bread, and staring at it hoping to get filled. As realistic as the portrayal of the loaf of bread might be, it will not satiate your hunger; it will not provide any nourishment to your body.
A form of godliness might be pleasing to the flesh, it might even impress those with whom we come in contact, but it will not feed our spiritual man, it will not help us grow in God, and when we need strength, when we need substance, the form becomes utterly useless.
A form of godliness is more dangerous than no godliness at all, because the form deceives souls into believing they are fine, thereby keeping them from seeking true godliness.
As an elderly preacher I once heard so succinctly put it, ‘true godliness is a lifelong pursuit and a lifelong struggle. We grow in God, and as we grow we desire to grow all the more. The more we grow in God, the more God grows in us, and the flesh is systematically expelled. Now the flesh doesn’t want to go, but it must if God is to reside in us, and have preeminence in our hearts.’
So why the command to turn away from such people, why would Paul be so adamant on this point? In short, we should turn away from those with a form of godliness because good health is not communicable, but diseases are.
True godliness is simple in its definition. In its essence true godliness is being wholly surrendered to God, and perpetually submitting to His will, allowing Him to mold us and chisel us.
A form of godliness however, presupposes that one can have a divided heart, and that one can walk in the world, and walk with God at the same time.
Having a form of godliness is deceptive, and contagious, and this is why we are admonished to turn away from such people.
True godliness presupposes a life of prayer, a life of sanctification, a life of continual mortification of the flesh. True godliness is not flashy, it is not entertaining, it is a walk of constant humility and obedience.
The form of godliness however, is all flash absent of substance. Why would you spend time in prayer, why would you spend time studying the Word, when you can go and witness people getting kicked in the face, gold fillings growing in people’s mouths, fully grown adults barking like dogs, and the list goes on. When we associate with those possessing a form of godliness, the temptation is always there to sacrifice our intimate time with God, and go witness the train wrecks that have become our charismatic congregations.
The house is on a corrupt foundation, and nothing substantive and lasting can be sustained on a fractured and inconsistent foundation. Anything not built upon the Word of God, anything not built upon the truth of Christ, will inevitably crumble into the dust of the earth. It is not a matter of if; it is only a matter of when.
In broad strokes we are already beginning to see the implosion of many doctrines that had nothing to do with Christ, but had everything to do with the self. We are beginning to see in very real terms that a form of godliness is only sustainable for a season, because you can only go so long without feeding your spiritual man before you either starve altogether, or seek out spiritual nourishment.
True godliness is clothed in humility and obedience, while the form of godliness is clothed garments that sparkle and attract the eye. One give you true power, true faith, true strength, true peace, while the other offers nothing more than an illusion placing a flawed, impotent, and vain self upon throne of the heart that ought to be reserved for Christ and Christ alone.
If we look at the list that Paul laid out, at all the sins that would not only be evident, but would multiply exponentially during the last days, we see that to the last they are alive and well within the churches today.
Our constant hope rests in the knowledge that God knows our struggle, God sees our obedience, and that he who endures to the end will not only be saved, but also receive the crown of life as just recompense.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.