Picture this: You’re on a ship, bobbing up and down in rough seas. Dark clouds loom overhead, the wind’s howling, and there’s all sorts of obstacles in your path. It’s a chaotic ride, and you can’t help but wonder… Who’s steering the ship?
Now I don’t know about you, but for me, I’m not a big fan of boats, I like to know that I can head home when I’ve had enough, but I can’t do that if I’m out in the middle of the bay, or in the middle of the ocean somewhere.
But if I was on a boat, I’d wanna know, who’s steering this thing? Are we headed in the right direction?
That’s the scene we’re sailing into as we explore 2 Timothy 3:1-9. Last week we heard Paul mention the need to deal with false teachers, and the importance of constantly reminding God’s people of their presence, and how to survive a punch in the faith (as Hamish put it).
This week… it’s all about understanding who’s steering the ship, Paul has told us that we’re in rough waters, so it’s all about having watchful eyes-to spot those people who might be leading us astray, to make sure we’re not those people, and ultimately, Anchoring our faith and our trust in the One who can navigate us safely through even the stormiest of waters.
So keep your bible open if you’ve got one there and we’ll get into it.
Now, all term we’ve been reminded as we’ve explored this letter. That Paul’s writing this letter to Timothy from a dingy, little cell in a prison in Rome, his own physical circumstances seemed hopeless, but he hasn’t lost spiritual hope, or sight of the goal, to see more and more people come to know Jesus. And equipping more and more people to teach and to guide God’s people through that.
But Paul knows that it’s not going to be an easy task, he’s seen the sinful nature of others first-hand, and their opposition to God has landed him in that very cell he’s writing from.
So just as a ship in turbulent waters needs a capable captain, Paul’s warning from verse 1 calls us to recognise who’s steering the ship of our lives through these “rough waters”,
Take a look:
… “But mark this: there will be terrible times in the last days.”
Not exactly sunshine and rainbows, is it? These are the rough waters, it won’t be smooth sailing.
It’s probably important to note here. When Paul’s talking about the ‘last days’, he’s talking about the days after Jesus’ resurrection, and those days continue until Jesus’ second coming.
So there’s a sense of urgency from Paul when he talks about the last days, because he wasn’t giving Timothy predictions about some time far off in the future, a time that he wouldn’t have really been able to see, no, they’re observations from Paul for then and there. Even now, today, we’re still living in those last days.
So Paul is saying to Timothy-BEWARE, you’re going to be faced with some very real challenges and temptations, and you won’t be able to sail around them, so it’s important that you know how to navigate them, and since we’re living in the last days-this is helpful for us too.
Check it out from verse 2:
People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-having a form of godliness but denying its power.
That’s an awful lot of challenges, and Paul finishes by saying-have nothing to do with such people. These challenges weren’t limited to the times of Paul and Timothy. No, this is our world, these are things we’re facing in our church today.
It’s a decent list, but you know what they all really have in common? They’re all really about misguided love. They break down into three key themes: Loving yourself, a straight-up lack of love, and a failure to love God as we should.
You read this list and it’s unsettling to think that we’d find that sort of misguided love in our church. It sounds brutal.
But Paul’s warning Timothy about behaviour like this because he’s seen treatment like this on his travels, and he doesn’t want that for the church. He doesn’t wanna see self-involved, abusive, loveless, brutal behaviour creep into the church.
That’s not how we’re called to love at all.
Jesus himself tells us in Matthew 22:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart… all your soul and with all your mind,
that’s the first bit, and the second bit is:
Love your neighbour as yourself.
The kind of behaviour Paul lists is the total opposite of what God’s command was for us. That’s not what we wanna see here in our church, is it? This list shows getting the order wrong.
I read a story this week about a woman named Brenda, who runs a course called-“How to Marry Money”, and in her course she offers tips on how to marry rich. She’d encourage her students to chant out: ‘I wanna be rich! I deserve to be rich! I was born to be rich!’ Brenda was then asked where love falls into the equation, and she said that finding someone wealthy was the hard part, loving them was easy, especially if they’re buying you lots of wonderful things! Brenda herself was single as she taught these classes-go figure!
Brenda’s definitely getting the order wrong, isn’t she? Has that ever been you? Putting yourself ahead of God, and ahead of others. Prioritising the money, and subscribing to that ungodly behaviour.
At the end of his list in verse 5, Paul mentions those people who put on a mask of godliness but deny its true power. Paul’s words serve as a serious warning, and this warning isn’t meant for someone out there. It’s meant for us, right here, in this very room.
You see, we’re the ones who gather on Sundays, sing the hymns, and say ‘amen’ at the end of our prayers. We even contribute to the offering each week. We get that ‘high’ of going to church, and we feel like we’ve ticked the box of what we should be doing. We hear the message on a Sunday and we feel ‘convicted’, but then we go home and don’t do anything about it, or give it another moment’s thought. We don’t pray, we don’t read our Bibles. That’s how these behaviours sneak into our church.
On the surface, it might look like we’re godly, but let’s not kid ourselves. There’s a harsh reality that we need to confront. Paul’s message is a mirror reflecting our own selfish desires. And we think there’s power in this form of godliness, but in reality, there isn’t, the power comes from walking closely with God, all week long, not just on Sundays.
It might be you, sitting right there, who identifies with this. In that case, it’s more than just a warning; it’s a call to immediate change.
Paul finishes verse 5 with this statement: Have nothing to do with such people… have nothing to do with such people.
It’s not a small, throw-away statement that Paul’s making here. And I know for me as I thought through this verse I just had more and more questions.
What does it look like for us to ‘have nothing to do with people like that’?
Is it the world that Paul’s talking about? Or is it me, in the church?
Well, just like we’ll try and avoid sugary foods, or avoid sitting down for massive amounts of time
for the sake of our physical health, Paul instructs ‘have nothing to do with such people’ for the sake of our spiritual health. It’s not about isolating ourselves from the world; It’s about being wary.
So, how can we be wary in our daily lives? It’s about more than just going through the Sunday motions, only to forget about God the moment we leave this place.
We must be vigilant about the influences around us, both here and beyond these walls, and also be thinking about the kind of influence we have on other people.
Seek a deeper relationship with God every day, that embraces the power of true godliness rather than ignores it. Prayer, and time in God’s Word every day, not just on Sundays.
Paul’s warning to Timothy reminds us of the challenges we face. Picture it as rough waters splashing into our boat. We need to be on guard and bail it out, or we’ll sink.
As we sail through our passage, Paul seeks to reassure Timothy and make sure he understands ‘who’s steering the ship’. His warning has shifted from his big list of bad behaviours, to a warning about false teachers. He pushes us to keep watchful eyes to identify those who spread false teachings, while keeping our trust firmly anchored in God, and believing that He’s the one that’s in control… God will ultimately prevail.
Read with me from verse 6:
They (the false teachers) are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.
Now if you’re not sure who Jannes and Jambres are, that’s ok. They’re not mentioned by name in the Old Testament part of the Bible, but they were the two magicians who tried to imitate the signs performed in front of Pharaoh by Moses and Aaron. You can read about that exchange in the early chapters of Exodus. But-spoiler alert: they backed the wrong ‘god!’ Jannes and Jambres got three miracles in, and they couldn’t keep up, and they looked like fools as they acknowledged God’s power to Pharaoh. But for so long their minds were corrupted. This is largely why Paul shares this example in his letter to Timothy, the Holy Spirit had revealed to him the similarities between Jannes and Jambres, and the false teachers Timothy was up against, and the Spirit showed Paul that their actions would ultimately fail, just as they had before. It shouldn’t surprise us then to hear that God will prevail, He’s done it before!
The danger that Paul is talking about in verse 6 is still very real though, and his caution to Timothy is clear-be on guard against people like that, they’re chasing vulnerable people to try and sway their beliefs.
Now, while Paul specifically mentions ‘gullible women’ here, the warning applies to anyone who could be seen as vulnerable, men or women. This passage reveals a disturbing reality.
In these last days, some people will try to take advantage of others, and control them by influencing their beliefs and thoughts. Almost imprisoning them in their way of thinking. Which is the total opposite of Jesus’ mission of setting captives free.
It’s important to think about who the deceivers are trying to fool. They usually go after people who are seen as weak and sinful, and perhaps can’t understand what’s really going on.
So this serves as an important reminder, that even in our church, there may be some people who do this. We need to be aware of this and protect our church family from that kind of harm.
It’s a sobering thought, isn’t it? That kind of deceit and manipulation. But it’s not just ancient history. The fall of man began with a cunning serpent, slithering through the Garden of Eden, seeking out Eve when she was all alone. This devious creature used its sly charm to deceive her, to convince her that taking a bite of the forbidden fruit was perfectly fine.
Paul’s warning to Timothy is about something similar. Be cautious of smooth-talking false teachers. They are like crafty navigators who lead people astray. Their words can mess with our thoughts and emotions.
We often see this today with ‘televangelists’ on our screens, guys like Benny Hinn or Kenneth Copeland, selling the idea of the prosperity gospel. They twist the Bible to make it seem like giving them money will you bring wealth and happiness. They put the focus on material things, not real spirituality, and they take advantage of the vulnerable.
And, let’s not assume we’re immune to these influences in our church. These deceivers may not be as obvious as those on TV, but they can be in our church family. They might twist our beliefs to fit their ideas, convincing us their way is the right way.
To protect our church, we need to encourage clear thinking, spending time in God’s Word, and having spiritual wisdom.
Let’s talk openly, ask questions, and stay grounded in a strong biblical foundation. That’s why we have Growth Groups at MPC. They give us a place to do that every week and help us spot these deceptions in our church.
It’s vital, because we aim to be a church that’s always learning, and always growing in our knowledge of the truth, rather than never being able to come to that knowledge as Paul mentions.
Now it would be easy for me to say here that this can all be avoided if our knowledge of God’s word is sound. I mean it’s true.But look at verse 6 again with me: Paul is talking about women in particular, but it applies to all of us, he’s talking about people who are loaded down with sins, that they can be swayed by all kinds of evil desires.
Is that you today?
The weight of sin is very real. I’m sure we’ve all felt that weight at some point in our lives, am I right? We haven’t been praying enough, or reading our Bibles enough, we haven’t thought of Jesus since we were here last week. And all sorts of other distractions and evils have started to pile up and get in the way.
It feels horrible, it clouds our judgement, and it just wants to drag you down further. But, if we’re always learning, and constantly growing the knowledge we already have of the truth, then we’re constantly adding scripture to our little kit bag, and we can use that to help us when we’re getting steered off course. And we can trust the Holy Spirit to be our guide to understand God’s truths. That’s why our Bible in a Year challenge this year has been so good. It’s that little bit, each and every day, adding to that spiritual kit bag.
I’m a little bit behind in mine but do be praying for me that I’d still be growing in that knowledge. We all want to grow in the same knowledge of the truth, so, let’s watch out for one another,
rather than arguing over who’s belief is the right one.
That’s not what we wanna see in our church, is it? We wanna be a church that’s united by Jesus, a church that knows without a doubt ‘who’s steering the ship’!
Paul’s not the only one who warns about false teachers. In 2 Peter 2, Peter talks about how destructive they can be. They’re greedy and they make up stories to exploit others. So, keep an eye out for false teachers!
Timothy is encouraged to hold on to his faith despite the presence of false teachers and their influence on vulnerable women in their community. And it’s the same for us. Our faith and trust should be anchored in God, he’s the one at the helm, the one who is all-powerful and all-knowing. He’s proven it to us already. God knows who His people are, and He’s looking out for us-And the false teachers, they won’t get very far! They’ll end up looking like the fools and God will be the one who prevails!
Remember, God is our captain, steering our ship! Like skilled sailors who maintain their vessel, we must regularly check our lives against Paul’s list, making the needed adjustments to stay on course. Serving on God’s crew demands dedication and a sincere relationship with Him. God helps us to navigate through the turbulent waters of trials and temptations. As we chase after holiness and share Christ’s love for us, we can rely on His grace and strength to guide us along the right path.