2 Timothy 025 – Follow Me – Part 2

2 Timothy 025 – Follow Me – Part 2
2 Timothy 3:11-13 • Dr. Andy Woods • April 3, 2016 • 2 Timothy


Andy Woods

Follow Me – Part 2

4-3-16      2 Timothy 3:11-13      Lesson 25

Good morning everybody, if we could take our Bibles and open them to the book of 2 Timothy 3, taking a look this morning if time permits at verses 11-13, 2 Timothy 3:11-13.  The title of our message this morning is Follow Me – Part 2.  If you’re with us here for the first time we have been working our way through the book of 2 Timothy, which is a book really about Christian endurance.  It’s about staying with the task when the storms of life come.  This is Paul’s final letter to a young, very struggling pastor named Timothy, who is overwhelmed by circumstances in his life, as no doubt we get from time to time, encouraging him to stay with the calling of God on his life, and pastor that great church there in Ephesus.

Paul, of course, is ready to die, he won’t be around forever.  In fact, in chapter 4, verse 6 he will say that his departure is at hand.  The mentor, who had been with Timothy for about 20 years is about to pass on and this is Paul’s final word and testament to somebody that he refers to as his spiritual son in the faith.

Chapter 1, you recall is a generic call to endurance.  Chapter 2 you you’ll recall, and you might not recall it because we’ve had a few interruptions in our study, but chapter 2 is basically ten metaphors or word pictures which explain what endurance looks like.  We spent quite a bit of time there in chapter 2 as Paul has moved from point to picture explaining what faithfulness and endurance looks like in the Christian life.

And then you might recall beginning in chapter 3 he begins to explain to Timothy why endurance is needed, because there is something that is going to come into the church in the last days called the last day’s apostasy of the church.  Apostasy, as we have defined it, is a departure from known truth.  As the church age progresses the church will have a tendency to sort of run off the railroad tracks and somehow she will not be everything that God has called the church to be.  Paul never tells Timothy that this can be avoided.  He tells Timothy how to be faithful in the midst of it.

And so in this section on apostasy, which begins in chapter 3, verse 1 and goes all the way through chapter 4, verse 8, Paul first describes the apostasy.  In verses 1-7 he describes the evil that’s coming. And in verses 8-9 he gives some examples of this evil. A couple of individuals named Jannes and Jambres, who opposed Moses in the Old Testament, and Paul says in the same way, Timothy, will rise up against you and oppose you as well.  And then Paul doesn’t just give the problem, or the anatomy of apostasy, he gives the antidote, and he basically tells young Timothy to do two things.  Number 1, follow Paul’s example, and number 2 (probably beginning next week) in verse 14, to preach the Word.

But we’re still on this section here where Paul is telling Timothy to follow his example.  Follow my example, first of all, Paul says, in my ministry, verse 10  Paul had been with Timothy for almost 20 years now and he had seen (Timothy had) Paul in every circumstance favorable, unfavorable, highs and lows.  And Paul points to himself and says imitate what I have done as  you have watched me go through the great spectrum of ministry and life; imitate my ministry in terms of teaching, conduct and purpose.  And then he says look at my character.  I mean, would you do this if you were mentoring somebody?  Look at my character, look at the Christ-like character inside of me and imitate my character in terms of faith, patience, love and perseverance.  That’s the ground we’ve covered.

And then beginning in verse 11 he brings up something that is sort of shocking at first, Paul says I want you to watch my difficulties.  I want you, young Timothy, to remember what I was like in the midst of adversity and oppression.  That, to me, is just astounding because if I was going to mentor somebody I would be pointing to my successes, my effectiveness, the battles that I’ve won.  Paul doesn’t do that, he goes I want you to specifically remember what it was like when I was going through great adversity, difficulty and oppression.

So he draws attention, verse 11, to his persecutions and sufferings.  And then while he’s on the subject of sufferings he gives an example, verse 11, a promise, verse 12, and a reason for the promise, verse 13.  But notice, if you will, verse 11, as Paul says this to Timothy.  He says, “persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all,” not some, “out of them all the Lord rescued me!”  The whole basis of this letter is imitate me as I imitate Christ, 1 Corinthians 11:1.  [ “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1,]

The whole basis of this letter of be imitators of me, 1 Corinthians 4:16. “Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me.”  This is why Paul had the influence that he had, over Timothy and others.  He simply did not point to his words but he pointed to his life.  And that, of course, is the great secret to having influence; people need to see in one’s life actions and behavior and character that match their rhetoric. And you can really tell a lot about a person in terms of their character by watching them, not on the mountain tops of life but in the valleys.  That’s when our true character comes out.  Not in the midst of prosperity but in the midst of adversity.  Paul had such a walk with the Lord that he exuded tremendous character and he was not ashamed to call Timothy’s attention to his valley experiences, that Timothy, no doubt was there to see.

Notice first of all this word, verse 11, “persecutions.”  Notice that the noun is plural there.  It wasn’t “a” persecution, it wasn’t “a” difficult time, it was perpetual persecutions.  Now of all of the subjects that Paul knew a lot about it was persecution.  Why do I say that?  Because Paul was probably, prior to his conversion in Acts 9, the greatest persecutor of Christianity.  Acts 9:1-2, prior to Paul’s conversion, when he was still Saul says this: “Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, [2] and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way,” that would be the new church, “both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.”

What was Saul before he came to Christ?  He was a person who breathed out murderous threats against the church.  Paul, in Acts 22:4 says, “I persecuted the way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons.”  1 Corinthians 15:9, he says, “For I am the least of the apostles, [and not fit to be called an apostle], because I persecuted the church of God.” 1 Timothy 1:13, Paul says, “even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief.”

And isn’t it sort of interesting that although Paul, when he was Saul, brought this wave of persecution against the early infant church, that the moment Saul became Paul by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ is the moment the persecution that he once wielded against others was suddenly aimed at him.  In Acts 9:23 it starts, right after Saul’s conversion.  He is now Paul; Acts 9:23 says, “When many days had elapsed, the Jews plotted together to do away with him.”  And from that moment on, Saul, who was now Paul, knew nothing but persecution and adversity.

Paul summarizes his sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11:23-33, I’ve read that passage before but it’s the Word of God so let’s read it again.  “Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.  [24] Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes.  [25] Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.  [26] I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;” and he continues on right through the end of that chapter, 2 Corinthians 11 describing his persecutions.

[27, “I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.  [28] Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.  [29] Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?  [30] If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness.  [31] The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.  [32 In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me, [33] and I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and so escaped his hands.”]

And Timothy, you watched me go through many of these things and I want you to remember what my character was like in the midst of all of that.  And how easy it is for us in the United States of America, sitting in a comfortable air conditioned room to forget the reality that the Christian life is a life of persecution.  In fact, America is an abnormality, it’s a bubble in the great sweep of human history.  Most of the Christian world has been under persecution, is under persecution worldwide, and yet we in America today are living in sort of a bubble or an abnormality for one reason or the other.  We enjoy religious freedom and other things, which could be taken away in a nanosecond.

And because of our position of comfort we look at suffering as some sort of  unwanted intruder that doesn’t belong.  And we forget that we are called into suffering.  Jesus said in John 15:20, “Remember the word which I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’  If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will also keep yours also.”  And  yet when we go through unfair treatment by people we have to remember that not only are we within the will of God but the favor of God rests on us.

Remember what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount?  Matthew 5:10-12, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. [11] Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. [12] Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  I have to admit, my first reaction at persecution is not to rejoice and be glad.  But Jesus says “Rejoice and be glad” because you’re in the norm, you’re in the groove, you’re living out what is normal.  In fact the way they’re treating you is the way they treated anybody in past history, like the prophets who wanted to live for God.

Timothy, I want you to call and reflect upon my persecutions, and I want you to remember something else, also in verse 11.  I want you to remember my sufferings.  You’ll notice in verse 11 it says “persecutions” and then the next word there is “sufferings.”  [2 Timothy 3:11]  Keep in mind that the noun, once again, is plural.  It’s not just a momentary difficulty, it is perpetual suffering that he endured.

And it’s so easy to read Paul’s letters at race value and see this.  Paul, in the book of 1 Thessalonians, chapter 3, and verses 2-4 says this: “and we sent Timothy,” see how Timothy was there when these things happened, “we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith, [3] so that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this.”  That is an astounding statement there, people want their destiny in God.  Paul says this is my destiny in God to suffer various afflictions.  [4, “For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know.”]

2 Corinthians 1:6 says, “But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer;”  Paul says there are things that God is doing through our lives in the midst of suffering that He does not do during times of prosperity.

Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12:10 says, “Therefore I am well content” contented with what: “with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”  Paul understood that in the midst of adversity he had nothing to rely upon but God.  And consequently that was the source of his strength.

Romans 8:18 says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”   The New Testament message is a message of suffering to all who seek to live out the reality of their faith.

I like the way Peter puts it in 1 Peter 4:12, “Beloved,” writing to believers, “do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.”   Peter says when the… not if, but when the fiery ordeal comes I don’t want you to be surprised by it, I don’t want you to be shocked by it, I don’t want you to look at it as some kind of unwanted intruder.  I want you to understand that it is something that God has allowed into your life and not think it some strange or odd thing.  I think in America we have difficulty with this because we hear so much about success and prosperity.  We have lost sight of these New Testament passages which seem to teach the opposite.

Now Paul, you went through a lot in your life, do you have a specific example you can call to our attention?  Paul says I’m so glad you asked that question.  Notice the rest of verse 11 there, “persecutions and suffering, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured,” now you’ll notice here that Paul makes reference to Antioch.  He makes reference to Lystra.  Now why would he all of a sudden draw Timothy’s attention back to Lystra and Antioch in southern Galatia?  And the answer is very simple; that’s where Timothy’s home town was.

Acts 16:1 says, “Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra.”  Same area, “And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek.”  Paul, I believe, is dialing back to his first missionary journey, which is recorded in Acts 13 and 14.  I think Paul here is primarily reflecting upon experiences that he had in Acts 14 and the reason he is drawing that to Timothy’s mind is this was Timothy’s home town.  This was Timothy’s first exposure to Paul, the apostle.

There’s a map with a circle around it, this is the area of southern Galatia that Paul traveled through on missionary journey 1, you’ll see, if you can look very carefully there the different cities, Derbe, Lystra, Antioch, this was where Timothy was reared by a Jewish mother and grandmother, and a Greek father.  This is most likely where Timothy came to personal faith in Christ for the very first time.  This goes back almost 20 years into Timothy’s background.  Paul is dialing back into a 20 year relationship that he had with Timothy.  And he says I want you to remember what happened when I first came in contact with you, young Timothy.

Well, what did happen exactly?  I believe the event that Paul is referring to is in Acts 14:19-20 which says this: “But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.”  They took Paul, these unbelieving Jews and they threw so many rocks at him that people thought he was dead.  Now what would you do if that had happened to you?  I mean most of us would be feeling so sorry for ourselves.  What did Paul do?  [20] “But while the disciples stood around him, he got up and entered the city. The next day he went away with Barnabas to Derbe.”

Paul is telling Timothy that I’m not just lecturing you on enduring in the midst of adversity, I want you to remember that I lived this out; I want you to remember the time in history when I first met you in southern Galatia where people pummeled me so badly that they actually thought I was dead.  And I want you to remember that I did not quit, I did not give in, but I went back into that identical city that had pummeled me and I completed the task that God gave me to do.

Timothy, I want you to think about that the next time you’re interested in or contemplating throwing in the towel because life is just too hard.  We quit so easily on things.  It’s in our sinful nature to quit and to give up.  God places all kinds of tasks in front of us to do.  We all have different callings but at the first sign of adversity I think we must be out of the will of God.  In fact, the adversity, many times is the direct will of God, and God does not want us to quit in the midst of adverse circumstances.

And so what great teaching came out of that ministry in southern Galatia?  This is what people started to say, Acts 14:22, “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations” plural, “we must enter the kingdom of God.”    You’ll notice that the kingdom of God is yet future, as we teach here.  You’ll notice that we, as God’s children one day will enter the kingdom of God but we’re not in the kingdom of God right now.  So prior to entrance into that glorious kingdom one day what’s the norm?  The norm is “many,” not some, “tribulations” plural.  “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”  That’s what came out of Paul’s first missionary journey into southern Galatia; that’s what was role modeled and there was somebody watching, named Timothy.

And let me tell you something; the world is not watching us when things are going well.  The world has our attention when things aren’t going well because they, instinctively know that God is going to be real or not, not in an up time but in a down time.  And we need to start seeing the tribulations that we are under as evangelistic opportunities because people will have a chance to see something in you which is unnatural, the strength of God, the power of God and the presence of God as we rely upon God in the midst of adversity.  This, I believe, is probably the seminal event that most likely attracted young Timothy to the cross of Christ, and actually allowed Timothy, as the book of Acts continues to become a great participant, a great contributor, a great co-laborer, if you will, into the ministry of Paul.

You say well, this is sort of depressing, I mean, all these trials.  But notice the rest of the verse, “and out of them all,” not some, “out of them all,” that’s these many trials that he went through, “out of them all the Lord rescued me!”  One of the great things about living longer, I’m going to be hitting the ripe old age of 50 in September so I’m not as old as some of you all but I’m catching you, and I was a Christian at the age of 16 so I’ve been a Christian a lot longer than I wasn’t a Christian in my life.  The majority of my life has been “in Christ,” I praise God for that heritage.  Some people don’t have that.  But let me tell you the advantage of that heritage.  The advantage of that heritage is you can look back on a track record of God, you can see a pattern of God.

And I can look back at the times where God delivered me from circumstance after circumstance after circumstance.  And looking back on that pattern it develops faith in this: if God delivered me in the past, this is going to be interesting, how is God going to pull it off this time.  God, You’ve been so creative in delivering me in the past and I’m in yet another place of difficulty, and I just can’t wait to see Your hand move in my life.  I can’t wait to see how creatively and how strategically you pull me out of this one, because Lord, I’m at the same place, I’m out of intellectualizing my problems, I can’t figure my way out of this one, just like I couldn’t figure my way out of any other ones.  That’s what a trial is, it’s something beyond your ability and you look back and you see how God came through, over and over again and we look back and we say wow, how’s God going to do it this time?

I would encourage you to do that; maybe you’re a journal person, journaling or not, maybe you’re a diary keeper, maybe you’re not, but always having some kind of e-mail or written record somewhere on file, for when those times of despondence and discouragement come because of life’s circumstances to remember that I was here in something similar, five years ago, ten years ago, fifteen years ago and God helped.

Is God not the same yesterday, today and what?  Forever.  Does not the prophet Malachi, chapter 3:6 of God’s character say, I am the Lord your God, I do not change.  [Malachi 3:6, “For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.”]  His character is what we would call immutable; if His faithfulness was evident then, why would it not be evident now.  And Timothy, what you need to understand, Paul says, is I have no corner on God.  My relationship with God, Timothy, is just like your relationship with God.  God is faithful to me; you watch Him, He’s going to be faithful to you. I know there’s somebody out there that needs to hear this because I know how life can get in terms of discouragement and adversity.  Psalm 34:19 puts it this way, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.”  Same idea.

I’m reminded of what the three Hebrews youths, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, those are the names we know them by, there Hebrew names were Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, who were, as very young men thrown into that fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar of Neo Babylonia for the simple reason that they would not fall down and worship a graven image.  And I’m reminded of what these youths said as they were moving into what seemed to be their fiery destruction.  Daniel 3:17 puts it this way:  “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.”  Nebuchadnezzar, you can throw us into this fire if you want but let me educate you on something; if God wants to deliver us, He will; if He wants us to perish, as Paul would say, “absent from the body is to be” what? “present with the Lord.”  “To live is Christ, to die is” what? “gain.” But if it’s not your time to go, if it’s not our time to go, God can and will deliver us.  Is that your attitude as you look into your fiery furnace this morning?

That example is followed by a promise in verse 12, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  It doesn’t say you might be persecuted, you could be persecuted if you desire to life a godly live in Christ Jesus; it’s an ironclad promise that you will be persecuted.  Wow!  And I have these little books at my house that have the promises of God in them, and they’re always happy promises, God will provide, God will strengthen.  Those kind of things.  Well what about this promise?  This to me looks like a promise: “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

Why is that?  I was trying to explain this to my daughter last night because we go over, as a family, the verses that I’m going to cover that particular Sunday morning.  How do you explain this to a nine year old, excuse me, almost ten, she’s going to be ten on the fifth, how do you explain this to her?  The best I could come up with in my awkward finite mind is this: We are living, not on God’s turf but on the devil’s turf.  As long as we are operating for God in this fallen system that we are in, orchestrated by Lucifer himself, we naturally attract opposition.

We naturally attract opposition, first of all from the unsaved world; secondly from our own fallen natures, and thirdly, from the fallen angelic realm, the devil himself, who works to oppose, constantly, progress in God’s people.  This is not front page news, this is not new teaching, Jesus gave the same truth in the Upper Room in John 15:18-19, he said, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.”  This didn’t start with you, Jesus says, this started with Me.  [20] “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.”

Isn’t it interesting that people will attack and criticize and victimize somebody that’s different than them.  Too fat, too tall, too short, wrong hair color, just look at how kids treat each other.  If one of those kids stands out in any way the rest are like… it’s like a mob mentality, persecuting this child that’s done really nothing wrong, other than being a little different than the rest.  And isn’t it interesting how that same concept applies its way out into the fallen world.  If you are a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ you walk to the beat of a different drummer.  Your value system is different.  The things you say are different.  Where you spend your time is different.  You stick out and that naturally brings forth opposition from people who are threatened by that.  The moment you begin to stand out for Christ is the moment a light goes on, there’s  standard and the unsaved world doesn’t want a standard, they don’t want a light so they work overtime to put the light out, either through invitations to compromise or through outright persecution itself.

Jesus said in John 16:33, another promise,  “In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”   [John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”]  We have a tendency in the midst of opposition to say Lord, what am I doing wrong?  And the Lord is grinning from ear to ear and saying it’s not what you’re doing wrong, it’s what you’re doing right.

Now you might say to yourself, well, pastor, you know my life is pretty good from the human point of view, I have a lot of luxury, I have a lot of leisure, I have a lot of prosperity, people pretty much treat me favorably.  If that is your life perpetually then maybe you’re not fulfilling your part of the bargain, because what does verse 12 say?  “all who desire,” the Greek word there is thélō, which means wish or desire, “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.  Jesus said, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you….”  [Luke 6:26]

Maybe if your life is characterized by perpetual lack of opposition, maybe the problem is you, maybe you really don’t desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus.  Maybe the ambition to live for God just isn’t there for whatever reason, because it’s very clear from this verse, based on this promise, that once that ambition enters the heart of a person they will know nothing all the days of their life but perpetual opposition.  A lot of people will start opposing you, they themselves don’t even know why they’re opposing you…, because you’ve just entered into the angelic conflict.

  1. Vernon McGee, several decades ago wrote this: “Melvin Laird, long before he was Secretary of Defense, made this statement in San Francisco at a Republican convention. I don’t know the circumstances which prompted the statement but he said, quote, “In this world it is becoming more and more unpopular to be a Christian. Soon it may become dangerous.”  Close quote.   Dr. McGee goes on and he says, “We are seeing the accuracy of this statement, ‘Real Christianity and real Christians are becoming unpopular.’  I’m not really moved today when the press cries out that there is no freedom of the press.  The bleeding heart press has played that theme for all it’s worth, but have they said anything about the fact that real Christianity is stifled by the press?” Question mark.  “When was the last time you read a sympathetic article of the biblical position?  The media stifles news that presents real Christianity. If a fundamental preacher gets any publicity it will be distorted and misrepresented.  Of course, if a preacher gets on the wrong side of the law he will make the front page.  But if he saves a group of people from going to hell he is ignored.”  McGee concludes with this sentence: “Friend, we are moving into an orbit when Christians may have to pay a price to stand for the faith.”

Of course that statement is inaccurate in and of itself because Christians, as I speak, all over the world are paying  a price for standing for the faith.   They’ve always paid a price.  What he’s saying here is this unique window or bubble that we have which we Americans think is normal is in fact an abnormality.  And we need to, in many cases, prepare ourselves for suffering.

I recall, I was taking a doctoral class at Dallas Seminary.  One of my favorite teachers, Dr. Stan Toussaint, he was taking us through the book of 1 Peter in the Greek, and 1 Peter, as you may know, is a book about suffering.  And one day in the middle of his lecture he sort of paused and spoke something almost prophetically; he says I want you to understand, you men, ministers in training, that this culture in America is turning.  It’s turning against Christ, it’s turning against the church, it’s turning against Christianity.  And you need to steel” now when he used the word “steal” it wasn’t theft steal but steel, s-t-e-e-l-i-n-g, like the Steeling the Mind conference that I’m involved in, which means to strengthen, to fortify, “you need to steel your minds for coming persecution and you need to start preparing your people for persecution.”  And then he just continued right on with his lecture.

May I just say to you that the American church today is woefully.. WOEFULLY unprepared for persecution of any sort.  Of course we have exceptions here and there but you see, the American church is filled with the gospel of success and prosperity.  The churches that get the budgets and attention and the airtime, I realize there are exceptions, but by and large are not places that are teaching what Paul is teaching us here, this reality of persecution.  Here’s the promise of God, “all who seek to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  [2 Timothy 3:12] Now why is that?  He gives a reason, verse 13, and with this verse we will conclude.  Notice verse 13, verse 13 is an explanation of the promise in verse 12, “But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”

Why is it that a promise of persecution for the person that desires to live a godly life in Christ Jesus exists?  Because of the state of the world and its deterioration and because of the state of the church in its deterioration.  It’s interesting that he uses this expression, “evil men,” the Greek there “evil” is the same word that’s used to describe “the evil one,” Satan, over in Matthew 13:19.  [Matthew 13:19, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.”]

You might recall that when we were looking at the condition of the apostasy we looked at nine characteristics.  Number 6 I said breaks the mold because it’s not an alpha privitive, it doesn’t have a negation in front of the word, and yet number 6 explains everything else on the list because it says people are malicious gossips.  [2 Timothy 3:2-3, “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, [3] unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good,”]

Now what is a malicious gossip in Greek?  It’s διάβολος [diabolos]  Satan, whose name means slanderer. What Paul is predicting in the last days through the repetition of this word “evil” is Satanically energized people in the world and in the church will not deteriorate, will not decrease, but they will actually go from bad to worse as we get closer and closer to the end of the age and the rapture of the church.  This is what makes the whole Kingdom Now, postmillennial, amillennial argument a total farce.  People think that we are going to “Christianize” the culture. I’m not denying the fact that we can’t have progress in terms of evangelism and discipleship and temporary lulls in evil, but the progress of evil cannot be stopped.  At best the progress of evil can be slowed down some.  When we slow down the progress of evil what we say is okay, I’m going to go over the cliff at 55 instead of 75, but the fact of the matter is, we’re still going over the cliff because it’s a promise from the apostle himself as he writes under the inspiration of the Spirit of God.

You’ll notice also there in verse 13, “evil men and imposters,” now what is an imposter?  I believe that he is referring back to Jannes and Jambres, who he mentioned in verses 8 and 9, magicians, religious leaders if you will, in Pharaoh’s court.  Who opposed Moses?  It was the religious hierarchy of Egypt.  It was the religious aristocracy.  It was the people that had the veneer of spirituality.

Let me ask you this: who did Jesus not get along with?  Pharisees!  You look at the love of God as expressed in the incarnate Son of God, you see Jesus’ love for everyone, even the outcasts.  But the crowd that He speaks most aggressively against, Matthew 23, the whole chapter would be an example, would be this religious crowd, this crowd that has a veneer of spirituality.  Paul says this is what it’s going to be like in the last days, you’re going to get opposition from the people that you least expect it because they are the “imposters.”  You’re going to get opposition from people who should and ought to know better, because they are satanically driven, influenced and energized people, having a veneer of spirituality.

Notice verse 13 once more, they “will proceed…” look at this, “from bad to worse, waxing,” some version say “worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”  You might remember when I laid out the characteristics of apostasy; one of the characteristics we talked about a few Sundays back was Matthew 13:33, where Jesus made this prediction about the interadvent age.  He said yes, God will be at work in the interadvent age, the period of time we’re living in now.  Yes, there will be some spiritual successes and victories.  Yes, god is building His church, but He also said something else, the yeast will work its way through the dough.

Matthew 13:33 says, “He spoke another parable to them: The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three pecks of flour, until it was all leavened.”  Now my friends that are involved in Kingdom Now theology tell me that the leaven is good, it represents the success of the church, the success of the gospel.  My response to that is you show me one example in the Bible, anywhere, I don’t care where you go, Old Testament, New Testament, where leaven ever refers to something good.

Without exception leaven Always, with a capital A, refers to something evil.  Even in that same Gospel did Jesus not say in Matthew 16:13, just a few chapters later, “Beware of the leaven of the” who?  “the Pharisees and Sadducees.”  If we allow the Bible to interpret itself we know that 2 Timothy 3:13, Matthew 13:33 is talking about something that you’ll hardly hear any pulpit mention today, the progress of evil.   [2 Timothy 3:13, “But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”  Matthew 13:33, “He spoke another parable to them, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.’”]

Why would we not expect that considering the fact that we’re living on Satan’s turf.  Paul never tells Timothy here’s five things to do to stop evil.  What he’s saying is it’s coming; your choice, Timothy, is how are you going to react in the midst of it?  Are  you going to become despondent and discouraged or are you going to stay at the task in spite of satanically motivated and energized hatred until the very end of your life.  That’s your choice.   You don’t have the choice of whether you get out of evil or not, it’s coming.   Your choice is how are you going to respond in the midst of it, “evil men and impostors waxing worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”  It’s sort of like a snowball rolling and as that snowball rolls it keeps growing and growing and growing.

I was at a conference in Spokane and a fellow came up to me and he said tell me about the last days revival of the church?  And I said I don’t see a single prophecy in the Bible that predicts a last days awakening or revival for the church.  And he looked at me, and as people do when they don’t get the answer they like he got somewhat rude and he said I cannot believe that you are a speaker at a conference and you do not understand that there’s coming to the church a last days revival and awakening?  And I said in response, have you learned how to distinguish the prophecies given to the church versus the prophecies given to Israel?  And he looked at me like I was from Mars, and that basically ended the conversation.  Why would he think that there is coming into the church some sort of last days revival or last days awakening?  Why would he even think that?  The reason is because he’s going to Joel 2 and other passages which speak of God’s program for Israel and he’s applying them to the end of the church age.

Let me tell you something, I’m going to be as nice about this as I know how to be: if you do not have the ability as a Bible reader to understand which prophecies go with the church and which prophecies go with Israel, then you are not even out of the crib yet in terms of Bible interpretation.  You have not even learned how to count to ten, you haven’t even learned the ABC’s because that is such a fundamental thing to understand to keep yourself unconfused in these last days.  I’m watching people constantly taking prophecies that apply to Israel’s program as a covenanted nation and her restoration and applying them to the church.  The church has no such prophecy.   If you want to  know God’s program for the church read verse 13, “evil men and imposters will wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”

Now can God send a revival if He wants to?  Can God send an awakening if He wants to?  Of course He can, He has done it at various times in history.  But those things are not simply a guarantee, those things are actually not guaranteed.  Revival is not promised but apostasy is promised and predicted.  I hope to God God sends another great awakening on the United States of America.  In fact, our family prays for that quite frequently.  But I don’t sit here and look at God’s Word and say when’s it coming Lord, You obligated Yourself to send it.  If it comes it comes out of a supernatural work, sovereignty and spontaneously out of the grace of God.  It would be an abnormality.  What is normal is verse 13, “evil men and imposters will wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”

Now you say well wait a minute, here it says they’re deceiving others because they are deceived.  So if they’re, these apostates are deceiving others because they’re deceived, how can God hold them accountable?  Thomas Constable writes this:  “The wickedness of evil men, particularly charlatans and imposters, will increase as time passes, proceeding from bad to worse.  They will not only deceive others but their sins and other deceivers will deceive them, deceiving and being deceived increasingly.  Such is the perversity of sin.”

And people are deceiving others, Paul says, because they themselves are deceived.  Well, if they themselves are deceived how can God hold them accountable for deceiving somebody else?  And here’s the answer: People move into a state of spiritual deception because they want to be deceived.  You say well, wow, do you have any biblical authority to make a statement like that?  I do, I’m glad you asked.  Jeremiah 5:31, a tremendous verse, “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority;” so the prophets are lying in Jeremiah’s day, the priests aren’t following God, they’re doing whatever they want to do, and the verse doesn’t stop there, it says, “And My people love it so!”  The reason you’re being deceived by (A) false prophets, and (B) false priests is because you want to be deceived.

Now this will become a very big deal when we get over into chapter 4 and verses 3-4, when he will speak about false teachers in the last days coming because they have a propensity to tickle people’s ears, to not tell them what they need to hear but what they want to hear.  Could you imagine going to a doctor and the doctor doesn’t tell you what you need to hear, he tells you want you want to hear?  Would not such a doctor immediately have his license suspended or  revoked.  And yet in the world of spirituality, in the world of ministry this is the norm.  People flock to a person who tells them what they want.  And so Timothy, as you live in the midst of this you’re going right uphill and consequently you have a promise from God: “Those who seek to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  Shall we pray.

Father, we’re grateful for these final words that You spoke through Paul at the end of his ministry to  young Timothy.  Help us to take these things into consideration and look with great sobriety over the times that we’re living in.  Help us to be a people that will be faithful to You in the midst of it.  We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory.  We ask these things in Jesus name, and God’s people said… Amen.