II Timothy 3:1-5
1But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2For 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, 4treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
The scariest part of II Timothy 3:1-5 is the opening phrase of verse 5, “having a form of godliness”. Paul gives a list of horrible sins and then says that those who commit them, have a “form of godliness”. The dreadful behaviour by those who make the days perilous is the activities of people who maintain that they are believers, or at least appear to be believers on the right track. They look good.
This means that that these are not people who are flaunting their sins publicly. These are not those in the Gay Pride parade, the drunks who bother you on the street or the wife swappers next door (although those things are wrong). These are people who “have an appearance of godliness”. They are in church. They preach. They serve. And then they leave such godliness appearing things and, in the words of verses 2 and 3 demonstrate love for themselves, love for money, pride, arrogance, abuse, disobedience to their parents, ingratitude, absence of holiness, heartlessness, inability to back down, slander, inability to say no to temptation and desires of all sorts, brutality, not loving good things, untrustworthiness, recklessness in word and action, self centeredness, and replacing of God with pleasures. What makes the days perilous is not, at least in this passage, the flagrant sins of the ungodly. It is the hypocrisy of those who maintain they belong to Jesus.
Am I guilty of some of the sins Paul lists here as evidence of perilous times? Are you? Today, let’s be honest with ourselves and with God about these kinds of sins. But do not fall into despair. The Gospel is the power of God to them that believe. The Spirit who dwells in believers is able and willing to get us all on the road to more consistent demonstrations of godliness and not just its appearance. Win a victory over sin today – and give the credit where it is due.