2 Timothy 031 – Itching Ears of the Last Days2 Timothy 4:3-4 • Dr. Andy Woods • May 22, 2016 • 2 Timothy - The Call to Persevere
Itching Ears of the Last Days
5-22-16 2 Timothy 4:3-4 Lesson 32
Good morning everybody. If we could take our Bibles and open them to the book of 2 Timothy, chapter 4:3-4. The title of our message this morning is Itching Ears of the Last Days, probably Part 1. And I want to thank Dr. Jim McGowan for filling in last week, I trust you enjoyed his ministry as he dealt with an important topic of the distinction between Law and Grace. We had a great congregational meeting, a lot of ministries that never got acknowledged in that meeting, unfortunately, or a lot of behind the scenes people, like our AV guys up there that do all their hard work [clapping]. And not to mention our worship team that you just saw up here [clapping] and of course you got a chance to take a look at what the Lord’s doing to our children’s ministry.
And if you’re not really in the habit of Sunday School attendance then you may not be a Christian… no, I’m kidding! I invite you to come June 5th, Bob is going to continue his class for a couple of weeks and I’m going to be teaching here in the Sunday School hour on the doctrine of eternal security. We are in the middle of a salvation study but we’re starting fresh with a new topic so if you haven’t been following that series don’t feel like you can’t come; that is going to start June 5.
You know, eternal security is something that people struggle with their whole lives, and we’re going to try to get right to the heart of the matter in this study.
2 Timothy 4:3-4 reads as follows: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,  and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” Sorry that I don’t have more of an uplifting sermon for you today but this is the passage we find ourselves in. It occurs in a book called 2 Timothy where Paul is encouraging a young man named Timothy to complete his task in ministry.
And he tells Timothy in this book that the task of ministry is not always easy and cheer up, it’s about to get worse because he makes a prediction about the last days. He makes a prediction about what the fickle and ever-changing human mind will start to demand from their spiritual leaders in the last days. If you’re kind of an outline person verse 3 is what people in the last days will turn away from—sound doctrine. Verse 4 is a description of what they will turn towards—false doctrine, and as we’ll see as we get into this they’ll “turn aside to myths.”
But taking a look, first of all, at verse 3; notice what he says, “For the time will come….” The Greek word for “time” is very interesting; it’s the word kairos. In fact, if you back up to verse 2 it says, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season,” when he uses this expression “in season and out of season” it’s the word kairos again; “in season” is eukairos, the eu prefix meaning good, “good season,” and then “out of season” is akairos, a being a negation, or “out of season.”
And so he’s warned Timothy that he is to fulfill his calling as a preacher and a teacher of the Word of God “in season,” when it’s in vogue to do this kind of ministry and “out of season” when it’s unpopular to do it.
And that flows very nicely into verse 3, where he begins to describe the time in history where the teaching of the Word of God will fall out of popularity. It will fall “out of season.” I think I’ve shared the analogy of my mom when I was living at their house as a teenager and went shopping for her; I wanted to get strawberries, now today my wife tells me you can get strawberries anywhere at certain stores, but way back in the prehistoric days when I was growing up and we used to walk up hill to school both ways and fight Indians the whole way and all that stuff, you couldn’t get strawberries any time you wanted them. And to my dismay I would say mom, I couldn’t get strawberries; and she’s like well of course you can’t them, they’re out of season right now.
So things in the natural world come into season and they go out of season. And that is what Paul is describing here with the Word of God. There’s coming a time in history where the Word of God actually will fall out of favor and popularity and “out of season.” And one of the reasons I wanted to go through these verses so slowly, particularly verses 3-4, is you see there’s so much here we may not even get through all of it today; that’s why there might be a part 2.
But I believe that these verses, and the reason I wanted to look at them carefully is it’s largely describing the season that we find ourselves in today, where the Word of God simply falls out of favor; it becomes “out of season.” It’s no longer eukairos, it’s akairos.
Now you’ll notice the way the New American Standard Bible translates this; it says: “For the time will come,” what does “the” mean? He’s speaking here about a specific season, a specific time. He’s no longer talking in generalities; he’s talking about a time in history. And I believe that this time in history will begin to exist as the church moves into the last days as the Lord is getting ready to wrap up His unfinished business with the church just prior to the rapture. It’s a time period sometimes called “the last days” in the Bible and sometimes it’s called “the latter days.” And this is in Paul’s two letters to Timothy, this will be the third time that Paul has addressed these latter times.
Back in 1 Timothy 4:1 Paul said that “the Spirit expressly says that in the later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.” He’s talking about a specific time period.
In 1 Timothy 3:1, you’ll recall, it says, “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.” So he’s dealing with a specific epoch or era, or kairos, or time when the Word of God loses its traction in the minds of men and women. Now you’ll notice this expression here in verse 3, “For the time will come,” this is a promise. He doesn’t say Timothy, it might come, it could come. He doesn’t say here’s three or four ways you can stop this time from coming. He just matter-of- fact lays it out on the line for Timothy and for us as readers in our time period that this time period is coming; it’s not optional. The only thing that’s really optional is how we react to this time period. That you can control but the time period itself cannot be controlled nor altered.
Now notice he says this three other times. He says, “they will not endure sound doctrine,” “they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,” they “will turn aside their ears from the truth,” they “will turn aside to myths.” So four times within a couple of verses he’s saying this time period is coming. And it’s not just Paul that warns of this time period; Peter warns of it as well. 2 Timothy and 2 Peter are sort of companion pieces.
And the reason I say that is both books were written by two key men of God just before they died. So 2 Timothy is largely the last will and testament, if you will, of Paul. 2 Peter is largely that last will and testament of Peter. 2 Peter, Peter’s last will and testament; 2 Timothy, Paul’s last will and testament. Peter says the exact same thing in his book. 2 Peter 2:1 he says, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you….” 2 Peter 3:3, Peter says, “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts.” So these are future tense promises at the time these were written and these are actual promises from God. I might, if I were so bold as to come up with my own translation of the Bible I might translate it this way: “For the time will come” parenthesis, “(and now is)” close parenthesis, “when they will not endure sound doctrine.”
Now notice also this word “doctrine.” Doctrine, for whatever reason, has become sort of a dirty word within the body of Christ. Doctrine is looked at unfavorably. In fact, there’s one prominent preacher, if I called out his name you all would know who I’m talking about, but there have been multiple interviews this individual has done and on multiple occasions what he says is this: “I don’t teach doctrine in my church.” Now some of my students have come to me at the College of Biblical Studies and they ask what I think about that and my response is always the same: he just taught a doctrine. His doctrine is I don’t teach doctrine. So what he has done is he has exchanged one absolute statement for another. To make a decision not to teach doctrine is, in essence, a doctrine or a teaching. And the way that this particular preacher rants and raves about doctrine you would think that doctrine is some sort of terrible thing, dirty word, it sort of divides people from each other, (which by the way it can).
But what do we mean by doctrine anyway? Let’s look at this for a minute. The word “doctrine” is the Greek word διδασκαλία (didaskalia), you’ll recognize in that word didactic, in terms of teaching, and that’s all doctrine is. Doctrine is simply teaching. It’s teaching provided by the Scripture that you can build your life on; that’s all doctrine is. It’s not some sort of dirty word, it’s actually something that’s quite positive as I’ll show you in a minute.
And doctrine is something that Paul emphasizes over and over again. For example, in 2 Timothy 3:16 he says, a verse we’ve already gone over, “All scripture is inspired by God, and profitable for teaching,” now that’s the related word didachē, very similar to didaskalia. And then as you go down to 2 Timothy 4:2, the immediately preceding verse it says, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction,” that’s again didachē, “instruction” related to didaskalia. In fact, the early church that came into existence in the book of Acts, chapter 2, of all of the things that the early church gave themselves to, the first item they ever gave themselves to wholeheartedly was doctrine. Acts 2:42 says, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching…” “teaching” there is didachē again, related to didaskalia.
So what is doctrine? Doctrine is simply truth that comes from the Word of God that you can construct your life upon. It is truth that is reliable and verifiable, it is truth that you can “take to the bank.” In fact, the truth is so certain and reliable that you can actually use it to build your life upon and begin to use it as a grid through which you view all of life. And it’s this very thing called “doctrine” that Paul is predicting here is going to fall out of favor with people. Now you’ll notice the modifier in front of doctrine, didaskalia, it’s the modifier “sound,” “sound doctrine” because not all doctrine, if it’s not found in the Scripture is good. In fact, doctrine, if it comes from the wrong source can be something very negative. Paul, in a verse I quoted a little earlier, 1 Timothy 4:1, talks about “doctrines of demons.” As Christians we have doctrines that we believe in from the Bible but the satanic realm, the demonic realm, they have doctrines as well. In fact, I would argue this, that when the angel, Gabriel, which Muslims call Jibreel, gave to Mohammed a set of teachings that we call the doctrines of Islam…, and by the way, I don’t think the Gabriel that Mohammed supposedly had contact with is the Gabriel of the Bible. I believe it was an angel of light, an angel of light masquerading as a demon or perhaps Satan himself.
But at any rate, this man, Mohammed, received these teachings and they are a set of teachings, you can read about all of them in the Quran, the Hadith, they’re very actual teachings that are absolute just like teachings from the Bible. I would say those are doctrines of demons that he received, although he probably wouldn’t understand that, although originally it is interesting when you look at Mohammed’s testimony he did believe that initially, before his wife talked him out of it, that it was the devil or a demon contacting him.
So my point is simply this; not all doctrines are necessarily good. So Paul is very clear here, the type of doctrine that is going to be rejected in the last days is “sound doctrine,” biblical doctrine., correct doctrine. In fact, the word translated “sound” is hugiaínō, and think for a minute, what English word comes from hugiaínō? It’s the word hygiene; hygiene simply means health. It’s something that is healthy, it’s something that is good for you. It’s something is necessary to ingest into one’s system to mature properly. That’s what he means here by “sound doctrine.”
And I remember growing up in my parents’ house, you know, my mom would always say eat the broccoli, eat the squash, eat your spinach. I had no interest in that, quite frankly; I wanted to move right into dessert. If I had my choice I would eat dessert all the time. But obviously if someone just eats dessert, ice cream, cherry pie, popsicles, it feels good going down but it’s not the type of nutrients that the body needs to develop correctly or properly.
In the same way, in the spiritual world there are basic doctrines that are healthy that God wants us to understand and God wants us to know about. And if we don’t ingest these doctrines, while at times they’re not palatable always to absorb, like squash or broccoli or spinach, and you may like all those three things and that’s fine (I’ll pray for you). But most of us normal people don’t like all these things. And so there’s things that are kind of painful going down but it’s necessary for health. You see, that is the type of doctrine that people in the last days will start to reject.
This word, hugiaínō, where we get the word hygiene, is a very interesting word when you start tracking it through the Bible. Remember the parable of the prodigal son, Luke 15:27 says, “And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’” The lost son was returned “back safe and sound,” that expression “back safe and sound” is the word hugiaínō. 3 John 2 says, “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” The word there for “good health” is hugiaínō, healthy.
It’s obviously a subject that’s on Paul’s mind because in these letters that he writes to pastors he keeps emphasizing it. 1 Timothy 1:10, sound teaching, that’s hugiaínō. 1 Timothy 6:3, “sound words,” telling Timothy to advocate “sound words,” hugiaínō. 2 Timothy 1:13, retain the sound words,” hugiaínō.
[1 Timothy 1:10, “and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching.” 1 Timothy 6:3, “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness,” 2 Timothy 1:13, “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.”]
Titus 1:9, an elder, now we just voted on elders so hopefully this verse was in your mind as you voted, “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” “sound doctrine” or “sound” there is hugiaínō as well. Titus 1:13, “sound in the faith” Titus 2:1 mentions again “sound doctrine.” [Titus 2:1, “But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.” [Titus 1:13, “This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith.” ]
What is going to happen in the last days as the church’s mission is getting ready to wrap up is people will begin to sit in judgment and begin to reject not just doctrine, but doctrine that they need; doctrine which is healthy, doctrine which they need to mature. Now here’s an interesting question: who is the “they?” “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine…”
[2 Timothy 4:3] I want to know who “they” are. And when you look at a lot of commentaries that come from a very strong Calvinist persuasion, a very strong Calvinist, not all Calvinists but many, believe that if you are really a Christian you will always persevere in good works, so that theology controls how they interpret the word “they” and so many of them interpret the word “they” as unbelievers coming into the church. But I do not believe that that is what he is talking about here. There is no hint here that he is dealing with unbelievers of any sort. This is a pastoral letter; it is written to address church related issues. It is talking about something that is going to arise internally within God’s church.
By the way, “for they will not endure sound doctrine” when have unbelievers ever endured sound doctrine? The world has never endured sound doctrine because the world has no doctrine by which they can depart from. Jesus was very clear on this in John 15:18-19, He says, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.  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.” The world already hates truth. So when he says they will depart from truth it can’t be talking about the world; they have no truth to depart from.
Rather what this is speaking of is within the church in the last days the church itself, God’s very own church that’s blood-bought, God’s very own people will start to in increasing numbers reject the vegetables and the squash and the spinach. It is interesting that it says here, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine;” I looked at that when I first started studying this and I said how is it possible to “endure sound doctrine”? The word translated “endure” is anechomai, and that word simply means to put up with, to bear with, to endure.
Jesus, in Matthew 17:17 became frustrated with the disciples that could not cast out a demon and Jesus said how long shall I put up with you, that’s anechomai. [Matthew 17:17, “And Jesus answered and said, ‘how long shall I be with you?’”] Ephesians 4:2 says, “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love.” “…showing tolerance for” is anechomai. See, as Christians part of our calling it to put up with each other, because I can get on your nerves and you can get on my nerves and we can all get on each other’s nerves and we get irritated with each other but the walk of love that we’re called to is to endure one another, that’s anechomai.
So there’s coming a generation in the history of the church that simply will not put up with, endure any longer, sound doctrine. Now how do you endure sound doctrine? Well, [can’t understand word] ways, enduring in sound doctrine means expending energy. For example, in Jude 3 we are called to earnestly contend for the faith.” [Jude 3, “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.”] Defend sound doctrine; does that not require effort and energy?
Galatians 6:6 says, “The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him.” That’s financially supporting sound doctrine. You financially get behind ministries that are continuing on in sound doctrine. That requires sacrifice, effort and energy. It requires sacrifice, effort and energy simply to study sound doctrine. 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” A “workman” is someone that is doing work? A work, effort, energy.
In fact, some of you may be able to identify with this: it takes a lot of effort just to listen to sound doctrine. James 1:21 says, “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.” It takes effort to listen to sound doctrine. Why? Because a lot of times the Scripture cuts us, exposes things in our lives that need to be changed.
Proclaiming sound doctrine is a task in and of itself, 2 Timothy 4:2, “preach the word;” think of all of the energy that it takes to study and to proclaim. [2 Timothy 4:2, “preach the word, be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.”]
So what Paul is saying is there will come a generation within the church, and by the way, let me backtrack for a minutes, church is not free. We have no major financial crisis here so I’m not saying this as some kind of plea to get money, but there’s this mindset in the body of Christ that church is free. There is no New Testament support for that at all. Church is not free; the gospel is free, but if a church is going to endure in sound doctrine it requires the effort, the energy, the mobilization, the sacrifice of God’s people to sustain any type of church.
And what Paul is saying is there’s coming a generation in church history that’s simply going to say we’re not going to do that anymore. We’re not going to put up with it, we’re not going to endure it, we’re not going to labor to sustain it. And so it’s a tragic thing. Well, what are they going to do instead. I’m glad you asked. They will accumulate for themselves,” this is in lieu or as a substitute for sound doctrine, “They will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires.” [2 Timothy 4:3] Now this word “desire” is an interesting one. There is nothing wrong with desires; God can give us desires that He wants to fulfill in our lives. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the” what? “desires of your heart.” So it’s not talking about God-planted desires because Paul modifies the word “desires” with the word “idios,” which is speaking here of their own desires.
There is going to arise within the life of the church a generation that will not be motivated by the desires of God, they will not be motivated by fulfilling God-planted desires inside of them, rather it will be their own desires. By the way, that word idios, what word do you think we get from that? You guessed it, idiot. Because when we become preoccupied with our own fleshly lusts we become spiritual idiots.
Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the LORD is the” what? “beginning of knowledge.” Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool has said in his heart, there is no GOD.” When I reject the knowledge of God and pursue my own fleshly lusts my intelligence decreases , what the Scripture teaches. If you want an example of that think of Lucifer who thought he could overthrow God. How exactly do you overthrow God. Ezekiel 28:17 of Lucifer says, “…You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor.” Romans 1:21-23 when it talks about mankind rejecting God says, “they became futile in their speculations.” [Romans 1:21-23, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools,  and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.”]
Here’s a chart I like to use to prove this, you see that line there, these are SAT scores in public schools, see that line there, that’s 1963. You say what in the world happened in 1963 that caused a precipitous decline in SAT scores? Did a meteor hit the planet? What happened? Well, that was the year the Supreme Court threw out of the public schools prayer and Bible reading. And it was the moment in time when America began to educate people without a biblical framework for doing so. And you see how the SAT scores began to crash at that particular point in time. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” If you’re going to involve yourself in an educational philosophy that excludes God and His viewpoint and you won’t read the owner’s manual, which I’ve done that before, I’ve tried to assemble presents on Christmas morning without reading the owner’s manual. The only thing it does is frustrate me because I don’t know what I’m doing, I have to consult the owner’s manual to put the gizmo together. That’s why I call my wife to help me.
By the way, this is a test that was given in 1862 to fourth graders. How many degrees of longitude are there? How many degrees wide are the temperate zones? What is water-shed? Name the principle animals of the frigid zones. How are you doing on the test so far? Name the different races into which mankind is divided. What is a monarchy? Now I can get that one right, I think. What portion of the globe are Pagans? What portion are Christians? Are you as smart as a fourth grader? See, this was standard in 1862. This was when God was the center of American education and how idiotic, idios, we became when we rejected the viewpoint of the Creator.
Paul says there’s coming a generation in church history that is going to be spiritual idiots within the church because their focus will not be God any longer, it will be their own lusts and desires. Now this word “lust” is an interesting one, it’s the Greek word episthymia. When that word is used as a verb, it’s used in a lot of different passages, Jesus says, “I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has committed already adultery with her in his own heart.” [Matthew 5:28] The word “lust” is the same verbal form of this root here, translated lust.
Paul, in Acts 20:33 says, “I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes.” “Coveted” there is the verb form of episthymia. In the noun form, John 8:44, it says this of episthymia: “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father.” The word “desires” there is the same one used here, satanic desires. Galatians 5:16 and Galatians 5:24, the same noun, talks about the desires of the sin nature. [Galatians 5:16 “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Galatians 5:24, “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”]
Paul, in 1 Timothy 6:9 says, “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires….” same word. 2 Timothy 2:22 says, “Now flee from youthful lusts” same word. 1 Peter 1:14, “As obedient children do not be conformed to the former lusts,” same word, “which were yours in your ignorance.” What is he talking about here? There’s coming a generation within the life of the church which will no longer be satisfied with God-planted desires; their whole focus is their own desire. And specifically here he’s speaking of the desires that emanate from the sin nature. And as this mindset grows within the body of Christ it will change the curriculum, curricula of the church is what he’s talking about. He’s warning Timothy about this because you, as a man of God, are going to be fighting uphill against it.
The church, another way of saying it, will no longer be Theocentric, focused on God, but it will become anthropocentric. The Greek word for man is the Greek word anthropos. The church will become anthropocentric, it will become man-centered. It will demand things and items and teachings and topics that appeal to man-centered lusts. And the verse that I think of constantly when I read this passage is Revelation 3:20 which says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door I will come in and will dine with him and he with Me.” And everybody uses this verse to lead people to Christ. Not that being led to Christ is a bad thing, right? But that’s not what the verse is talking about. When Jesus is standing outside the door He is not standing outside the door of the heart of the unbeliever; He is standing the door of His own church. How do I know that? Because the prior verse, which people don’t connect context but if you just go back in the context you’ll read the prior verse, which says, “’Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline;” [Revelation 3:19].
Who does the Lord discipline? His own; “whom the LORD loves” the Lord does what? Chastises! I’ve never disciplined the neighbor’s kid, although I’ve thought about it many times. You discipline your own children; that’s the context of Revelation 3. This is not a salvation passage at all; this is a passage dealing with Jesus outside the door of His own church. This is a church called Laodicea.
A church, when you study it in the book of Revelation that had become quite prosperous; money was rolling in, the offering looked good, the budget was being met and prospering. The pews were filled with worshippers. And outside that church is Jesus knocking on the door wanting to come in, not to save them but to have fellowship with them. That’s why he says in the prior verse I want to dine with you. Dine, we don’t understand this in the 21st century because we’re always eating on the run but in biblical times dining with someone meant intimate fellowship. Jesus had with His disciples the last what? Supper. Fellowship! I want to have fellowship with you.
In fact, the word Laodicea is a fascinating word; it comes from two Greek words, laos, which means people, and dikeō which means to rule. Laodicea literally means the people ruling. What is governing the church at Laodicea is not a Theocentric God-centered agenda; it is the desires of man. And this was what is predicted to come into the church in the last days. So what are people going to do? “…they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires,” which we have defined as lusts. [1 Timothy 4:3]
Now who’s doing the accumulating here? It’s the “they.” Who’s the “they”? It’s the people within the church; it’s God’s people. People say how come we see so many false teachers today in spirituality? How come we see so many false teachers today within Christendom or Christianity, within God’s church? The answer is a basic law of economics where supply is dictated by what? Demand. The reason false teaching is in ascendency is because that’s what the people want. When you stop supporting healthy doctrine and truth and you begin to promote false teaching, you begin to clamor for that, people begin to provide it.
In fact, Marvin Vincent, in his scholarly commentary called Word Studies says this: “If people desire a calf to worship, a ministerial calf-maker is readily found.” Isn’t that an astounding statement. Let me read that again: “If people desire to worship a golden calf, a ministerial calf-maker is readily found.” You know, we want to blame everything on the false teachers and they deserve a lot of the blame, but the fact of the matter is there wouldn’t be false teachers if people didn’t want the ear-tickling messages that false teachers provide.
There’s a lot of ministries out there, they call themselves discernment ministries, and I think some of them do a lot of good but when you look into these discernment ministries they are always critiquing the false teachers. The false teacher said this wrong; the false teacher said that wrong. You know what breaks my heart? It’s not so much what the false teacher is doing or saying; what would be bad enough; it’s when the camera pans the crowd and I see stadiums full of people listening to this false teacher. That’s the heartbreaking part of it, because the false teacher wouldn’t even be in business if there wasn’t some sort of demand within the church for his or her services.
The book of Jeremiah, chapter 5, verses 30-31, says this: “An appalling and horrible thing Has happened in the land  The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority;” and then the verse doesn’t stop there, it gets to the root of the problem and it says, “And My people love it so!” The reason that these prophets are prophesying falsely and the priests are ruling by their own authority is because that is what these people, in fact, this text says “My people” want, in fact, they “love it” this way.
We’re living in a generation today that’s telling us that the majority is always right. We are inundated with election results that say the people have spoken; the majority has spoken. You can’t even get through the day without being inundated by some survey, created by somebody, telling you what people want. And we think that because people want it a certain way that makes it right. After all, that’s majority opinion; right? If I’m understanding this passage correctly, “they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires,” this is talking about the majority. This is talking about the majority of Christians wanted this. And here the majority is wrong. You don’t determine what is true by the majority opinion.
Matthew 7:13-14 if anything makes this crystal clear, it says, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.  For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” The path to destruction is the five-lane highway; the path to life is the narrow access road on the side of the freeway.
This is a logical fallacy called ad populum. An ad populum argument says something is right if it’s what the majority wants. I could give you many examples in the Bible and in history where the majority had it wrong. In fact, Joshua and Caleb, in the book of Numbers, 13 and 14, wanted to enter the land and the majority of the people out-voted them. Only two wanted to enter the land. And guess what? Those who guys, Joshua and Caleb, were right; the majority was wrong. In fact, they were so wrong that God says all right, you all, you’re just going to wander around out here in the desert for 40 years and I’m going to wait for you to all drop dead and I’m going to start working with your kids. Joshua and Caleb, because you searched Me and followed Me with your whole heart, you will enter with the kids in the next generation; I’m finished with an entire generation.
The majority is right? The majority is just flat out wrong here. And this is what the majority are going to want; they will… notice this word choice, “accumulate,” stack up, demand, this abundance of false teaching. Why are they doing it? “But wanting to have their ears tickled.” [2 Timothy 4:3, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,” ]
One of the things to understand about the Bible is it’s a sharp two-edged sword. Hebrews 4:12, Ephesians 6:17. Hebrews 4:12, [“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Ephesians 6:17,“And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”] And consequently when it’s unleashed it has a tendency to pierce us. 2 Timothy 3:16 talks about reproof. [2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;”]
Acts 2:37 says, “Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart.” That is the function of the Word. Beloved, the Word is not here to be corrected by us; the Word is here to correct us. We are not here to sit in judgment on the Bible; the Bible is her to sit in judgment on us. And you see, there arises a generation that they don’t want to be exposed anymore, so they begin to push the Bible out of God’s church. You know, we get all upset about they’re taking the Ten Commandments off public school walls and things, courthouses, and I think that’s something to be upset about, but Paul is saying there’s going to arise a time period where God’s truth is going to be kicked out of His church. Forget the crumby manger scene on the courthouse steps, that’s bad enough, kicking that off, what about when it happens in the church? Isn’t that the greater outrage, when the church becomes Laodicean and Jesus is outside the door of His church, knocking politely, like a gentleman, wanting to re-enter for purposes of fellowship.
Why are people getting like this? Because the squash and the spinach and the broccoli is not fun to be ingested over and over again. I want a different menu. The problem is, moving to dessert may not be in your best interest in terms of health. It may not give you, and it won’t give you the hugiaínō or the hygiene that you need to develop properly at a spiritual level. And so what will become the norm is people will flock to assemblies that tell them what they want to hear. Could you imagine going to a medical doctor or an attorney and that professional didn’t tell you what you need to hear, he told you what you wanted to hear. I mean, would not such a professional properly lose their license to practice medicine or law?
What Paul is saying is this will become normal in the church. You see, in the realm of spirituality this is normal. You gravitate towards places that tell you or reaffirm our pre-existing ideas. What you discover, particularly when you pastor a local church is a lot of people want their ideas reinforced. And if you’re committed to the Scripture what you discover is that the Word of God doesn’t reinforce any human viewpoint, it tears it down. The Bible is a wrecking ball that is going after, not the building itself but the foundation. It’s called renewing your mind. And yet if you’re married to a false idea you simply say well, that spiritual leader is not telling me what I want to hear, I’m going to go down the street and I’m going to find my own ministerial calf maker and they are in surplus and abundance.
What’s running the church of Jesus Christ today? It’s Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. One of my majors in college was business and I even taught Business Marketing and Management at the Community College level for a few years. So I’m well familiar with the theory. It’s this idea that human behavior can be defined as people pursue their own needs, wants and desires. Abraham Maslow articulated that there are various levels of need. First people want their physical needs met. Then they want their safety needs met. Then they want their social and esteem needs met. And then finally, when they reach the top of the pyramid they’re called self-actualized.
In fact, it’s a very accurate description of what drives people, marketing itself is built around Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, because what the marketer does is he comes up with the right marketing mix to appeal to people’s felt needs. You don’t want to be burglarized in the middle of the night do you? You need this new security system. That’s an appeal to a safety need. You want to feel important, don’t you; you need this new car. That’s an appeal to an esteem need. And this is what drives Madison Avenue.
And the tragedy of it is Paul is predicting that in the last days this is what will drive the church. It’s called Felt Needs Preaching, where the Bible is used in a very selective way and there are verses you can use to appeal to people’s physiological needs, safety needs, social needs, esteem needs.
The problem is you run out of verses after a while because the Bible goes beyond our basic needs and it begins to deal with subjects and topics that are outside Abraham Maslow’s pyramid, like repentance, hell, sin, that doesn’t fit within this structure. So if you’re a good marketer what do you do? You just leave that part of the Bible out. And what you have after a while is what I call a cannon within the Canon. Certain Bible verses are used. That’s why so many of these sermons, they start sounding the same over and over again; certain verses are used and other verses are ignored. Basic marketing!
And because you see, in marketing the customer is always right. How in the world can you teach the Bible to a group of people that think the customer is always right when the Bible is revealing things that are unholy in it, that need to be changed. And so consequently what happens? Amos 8:11-12, “‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘When I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, But rather for hearing the words of the LORD.  People will stagger from sea to sea and from the north even to the east; they will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, But they will not find it.”
The reason that touches me is because that’s what I see all the time, in inquiries and e-mails from people, from all parts of the country and in some cases different parts of the world saying we can’t find a church that teaches the Word of God. I’m giving you the reason why, because the church, to a very large extent, has sold out to a marketing paradigm.
Well, what are they going to turn to in lieu of sound doctrine? Notice verse 4, “ They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” Notice that word “truth.” Let me tell you something about truth. Truth is not always easy to ingest but it is your best friend at the end of the day, because Jesus said in John 8:32, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you” what? “free.” I had some issues with internal pain issues a year or two ago, somewhere around those lines and I didn’t want to go to the doctor because I knew what the doctor was going to say, he was going to give me some bad news. He was going to say you need to be cut open, you need to have surgery. So I finally went to the doctor, he said your gall bladder needs to be removed, I didn’t want to hear that, who wants to have that happen. Who wants to have their insides ripped open? Who wants to go through the soreness that you go through when you recover from a surgery. But guess what? I don’t have any more pain today because I submitted to the knife of the physician.
The truth is not here to exasperate you, it is designed to liberate you; it’s designed to help us. I remember when I was a high school basketball player, and our coach put us on a weight training regime. I was in 9th grade at the time, I was skinny as a rail, believe it or not. And I remember looking at those weights and being intimidated by the weights because there were kids in the 12th grade that were far more equipped, stronger than I was and I felt inadequate. And the coach wisely could see the intimidation in my eyes and he said you know what? These weights are not here to be your enemy; these weights are your friend because these weights will develop your body in the way it needs to be developed for you to reach your potential. That’s truth.
Truth is not the enemy, it’s easy to perceive it that way because it’s difficult to ingest, but it is your friend. It is your best friend. There isn’t anything that will liberate you more than the truth. You’ll notice the definite article in front of truth, “the truth.” A lot of people today are saying truth can’t be known. Nonsense! God has revealed Himself. “The truth,” 66 books, are given to us to help us. And they [2 Timothy 4:4] “will turn their ears from the truth,” that’s apostasy. The Greek verb is apostrephō, it’s used earlier in this book,, 2 Timothy 1:15, “You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes.”
Why are people turning away from the truth? To quote that great theologian, Jack Nicholson in the moves, A Few Good Men, what did he say? You can’t handle the truth. That’s why people are turning from it, even though the truth is there it’s there to liberate them.
1 Kings 22:8 says, “The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.’” Of all of these prophets that give these warm glowing ear-tickling messages there’s one prophet in this country that I hate because he never has anything nice to say about me. And yet the king needed to hear Micaiah. I would say we need more Micaiah’s today. They are in dwindling supply.
Jesus, in John 3:19-21 said, “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” [21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”] Jesus Christ, the light of the world, shows up and you would think the world would stand up and applaud, but they don’t like the light because light, by its very definition exposes.
[2 Timothy 4:4b, and they “will turn aside to” you see the substitution going on here? Nature abhors a vacuum. If you reject the truth of God’s Word you will find a substitute. The children of Israel rejected a true knowledge of Yahweh and they found a substitute in the golden calf. Romans 1:23 says, they “exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man [and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.]” They switched, they changed. One of the things I hope you learn from all this is neutrality is a myth. People are not neutral. If you’re not pursuing God you’re pursuing something else.
And then the last word we have here is what they’re going to turn to. They’re going to turn aside to myths, the Greek noun for myths is mythos, it means a legend, a tale, a story, a fable, which is untrue. It’s used in the New Testament almost always with a negative connotation. It’s astounding the things people will believe in and they reject the truth.
Peter writes, “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales,” that’s mythos. 1 Timothy 1:4 says, “pay no attention to myths and endless genealogies,” mythos. 1 Timothy 4:7, “have nothing to do with worldly fables,” mythos. 1 Timothy 1:14, “don’t pay attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men, mythos. You know the thing that’s interesting to me about people in the last days is they never get tired of learning. The desire to learn is always there. It’s just they’re devoting themselves to myths.
2 Timothy 3:7 says, “always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.” Paul, in Acts 17:21 talks about a modern-day Starbucks where you have these arm chair theologians and philosophers; some of them are there all day long. [Acts 17:21, “(Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.] They “spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new,” mythos.
Beloved, let me let you in on a secret; if it’s true it’s not new, if it’s new it probably isn’t true. We don’t need anything new. What we need is the truth of the Word of God. So here we are in the 21st century devoted to myths. What are the smartest people saying, that reject God? The smartest people on planet earth are telling us that everything assembled itself accidentally. How smart is that? Have you ever seen a hurricane or a tornado go through a junkyard and assemble a 747? You do not get design from accidents, you get it from a designer. And yet this is what happens to people.
So Timothy, your job is going to get tough. Isaiah 6:8-10 says, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’  He said, ‘Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.’  “Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Otherwise they might see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed.” Isaiah, you’re going to have a tough job because you’re going to be prophesying to people that aren’t going to want to hear what you have to say. The same with you Timothy.
And today as I speak this is what your average pastor is seeing in his congregation. He is looking out at a sea of people with their desires, one person has a sign that says don’t mention hell, that makes me feel uncomfortable. Another person says please refer to sin as bad choices. Another person says tell me again how much God wants to bless me. Another person says make sure there are enough programs here for my kids. Another person says remember how much money I give to this church every week. Another person says tell me how to get rich, tickle my years, if you don’t do things my way I’m leaving. What can Jesus do for me? Only good news please. And my personal favorite, be relevant.
It’s tragic, isn’t it? And may we at Sugar Land Bible Church resist the tide, spit into the wind, go in the opposite direction, as we endure sound doctrine. Shall we pray.
Father, we are grateful for this warning; we see it happening all around us. Make us people of courage in these last days. We ask these things in Jesus’ name and God’s people said, Amen.