2Timothy 3:1-5 ESV But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. (2) For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, (3) heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, (4) treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, (5) having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
If you are like me, you have a few pieces of cheap furniture around the house. We used to have dresser that had a nice wood pattern on it. The grain of the wood was really clear and looked great. The only problem was that what you saw was just a veneer. It was an outer layer laid on top of cheap particle-board. Through years of use and perhaps some humidity, the particles in the particle-board were starting to come apart in places.
Paul reminds us that there will be some folks we encounter in this life who will have an appearance of godliness but no power. From the outside they may appear godly. Maybe they have a good confession of faith. Maybe they dress up and look nice on Sundays. Maybe they know how to pray for an offering or at the end of the service. Yet, when it comes to their actual faith, there isn’t any substance. It’s all particle board. They live and act as if there isn’t a God.
Rather than affirming folks who put on the veneer of godliness but haven’t trusted the Lord with the deeper issues of life, we need to be careful to avoid such folks. Notice Paul isn’t teaching us to avoid folks who don’t claim to know the Lord. He is telling us to avoid folks who claim to know God but live on some level like they don’t know Him at all. We welcome a lot of problems into the church when we entertain folks who fill out this list but slap on an “appearance” of godliness.
2Timothy 4:3 ESV For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,
We have those sorts of people today. Never before have you ever had access to accumulate so many preachers on podcasts, the internet, television, radio, etc. Never has a local pastor ever had to compete with so many different voices feeding into the lives of his congregation. To be sure there are some great bible teachers out there, but there are also tons of folks spitting out soundbite theology that produces they type of people that have a form of godliness, but no substance. It’s kind of like when someone else feeds your kids a ton of junk food before dinner so they don’t even want the healthy meal you’ve prepared and then they whine and complain about indigestion. Be careful who you listen to.
Also be careful that you don’t just listen to a ton of good preaching without being accountable to a local congregation. Preaching was never really intended to be divorced from presence. You can’t really live out your faith without your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Father, thank you for the reminder today from 2 Timothy of my call to be a pastor. Thank you for the reminder that you have always known that these days were coming. Give us wisdom and insight in ministering to one another that we might not be as those who have an appearance, but no substance. Let our faith be real and worked out in the context of the community and teachers you have given us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.