Derek addresses perilous times that will come, reading from 2 Timothy, chapter 3. He adds that "perilous times" can also mean "times of stress," which we are experiencing today. He reveals a progression of corruption using marks of moral degeneration: From love of self and love of money, leading on to love of pleasure, adding Paul’s own words to Timothy: “From such, turn away.”
Now I’d like to turn to a chapter in 2 Timothy, chapter 3, which mainly focuses on this period. I really want to just work through it systematically without dwelling too long on any part of it and try to pick out the salient features. It begins with a statement:
“But know this, that in the last days [that’s the time we’re talking about, in the last days] perilous times will come.”
So Paul says to Timothy just be quite sure about one thing. The close of the age is going to be a very difficult time. Interestingly, in the translation I’m reading from, in the margin they use the phrase “times of stress” will come. That’s interesting because up till World War II nobody ever talked about stress. You could go to a doctor ten times and he wouldn’t even think of mentioning stress. Nowadays it’s hard to get out of a doctor’s office without being told about stress. Isn’t that true? I don’t think the doctors are wrong. What I think is happening is something that was predicted in Scripture is working true in history.
Undoubtedly, I know that Ruth and I ourselves, we both have a tremendous battle with stress. And let me share a little secret with you which we’ve discovered. This is by the way but there’s no extra charge. If you get our update—and if you should want it, it’s number 56. This is not a plug for the update but we deal with our experience with stress. Ruth had a sister in the Lord, a minister’s wife, close to us who had been going through about three years of continuing sickness and problems. And every time she went to see a doctor the doctor said stress. She said, “Doctor, don’t talk to me about stress. I’m a Christian, I don’t have stress.” But one night the Lord visited her for about two hours and He talked to her about stress and He said, “Stress is a person and 90% of My people have it.” In other words, it’s an evil spiritual person. When you realize it’s a person, it’s totally different.
Well, this sister went back to the church where her husband was ministering and gave this testimony. So she said, “How many of you—and this is a good Charismatic church—how many of you feel you need to be released from stress?” And, 90% of the people came forward immediately. So the Lord’s estimate was exactly right.
And one very strong Christian came forward and the sister felt, “He’s coming forward to help me.” So she said, “Are you going to help me in the ministry?” He said, “No, I’ve come for help.”
So, in this update we relate how we dealt with stress. It’s just over a year ago now and our lives have been different. So, times of stress are here but God has an answer. I’m not going to go into that tonight, I just want to point out to you that it’s a true statement. There will be times of stress.
Now, what’s the source of the problem? Where is the root of the problem? The answer is in human nature. Human beings are the source of the problem. It’s not nuclear fission, it’s not atom bombs. It’s not even aids. It all proceeds out of corruption in the heart of humanity. And one thing that I saw in this connection is corruption is irreversible, in any area. You take fruit that’s begun to spoil. You can put it in the refrigerator and slow down the corruption, but you cannot reverse the corruption. The same is true in human nature. Sin has corrupted all of us and this corruption of humanity is progressive, it’s getting worse and worse and worse. And, there is no way to reverse the process. And God is more wise than to try. Do you know what He does? He begins something totally new. If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. He doesn’t patch up the old. I say religion is like putting the fruit in the refrigerator. It keeps it from getting bad so quickly but it doesn’t change the process.
And so here we have a picture of the progression of corruption at the end of this age. I believe it’s logical. I believe, in a certain sense, it’s scientific. It has to be this way. There’s no way of changing it. We have to relate to that situation.
And so, Paul goes on. After he’s spoken about the perilous times he says:
“For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money...”
And there are actually eighteen marks of moral degeneration that Paul lists. As I read them I would like to ask you to think how many of them are conspicuous in our contemporary culture. I would observe that being now almost 75 years old, I’ve lived a comparatively long while, and I can remember when the world was a different place. I grew up in Britain between the two world wars and if anybody had told me in, say, 1935 what Britain would be like in 1985, I don’t think I could have believed it. The British have got a lot of faults but essentially they were a law abiding nation. There was order, law was respected, the police were respected, people paid their bills. I remember people who sold newspapers would leave the newspapers probably outside the pub while they went inside, and they trusted people to take a paper and pay. And nobody just stole. And if somebody broke into a car and stole a lady’s handbag, it was headline news across the nation.
Now, I know most of you can’t remember those days. I think one of the problems with people in this generation is you don’t realize how different it is from what it used to be. Well, let me read the list.
“Men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God...”
It’s interesting to see how the list begins and ends. And it begins with the things that people love and ends with the things that people love. You see, the things we love really dictate our conduct. So the first thing in the list is lovers of self, lovers of money; and the last thing on the list is lovers of pleasure. How well do those three words describe our culture today? Love of self, love of money, love of pleasure.
And interestingly, the words that follow and the words that precede at the end all indicate some form of pride. Let me show you. At the beginning, lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers. And at the end, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.
And then you say, “Well, those are not the kind of people that go to church.” Wrong. They are. Paul’s specific. He says in the next verse:
“...of all these people, having a form of godliness but denying its power.”
And I can assure you from the Greek text the word that Paul uses for godliness he would never use of any pagan religion. He could only use it of a religion that acknowledges the true God. So, these people have a form of godliness. Outwardly they want to be considered righteous, believing people.
And then Paul adds a very useful word. He says:
“From such, turn away.”
And as somebody who has been in the ministry many years, my version would be, Don’t waste your time on people like that. There are other people that are much better to invest in. I wonder across our Western world how much time pastors are spending on people who are not worth investing in. Whereas, if we would lift up our eyes, there are people in other places that are just waiting for the first time to hear the truth. “On such people,” Paul says, “don’t waste your time.”