Maintaining Spiritual Traction in a Shifting Culture
Last Days Survival Guide, Part 1
2 Timothy 3:10-13
Bruce A. Hess
Well, it is good to have you here. Welcome. If you would, please take out your Bibles, turn on, stir up your electronic Bible, and turn in them to 2 Timothy, chapter number 3. If you don’t have a Bible with you, there should be one under a chair in front of you and you could take that Bible and turn in the back part to page 166 and you would be at 2 Timothy, chapter 3.
We’ve been doing a series of messages on the book of 2 Timothy that we have subtitled, “Maintaining Spiritual Traction in a Shifting Culture.” Even though I just had you open up your Bible and turn to it, I want you to do something else for me. I want you to close your eyes for a moment and I want you to listen as I read from a translation called The Voice. I am going to read the first four verses of chapter 3. So, listen, please.
“Know this: in the last days, times will be hard. You see, the world will be filled with narcissistic, money-grubbing, pretentious, arrogant, and abusive people. They will rebel against their parents, and will be ungrateful, unholy, uncaring, coldhearted, accusing, without restraint, savage, and haters of anything good. Expect them to be treacherous, reckless, swollen with self-importance, and given to loving pleasure more than they love God.”
As we saw when we were together last time, in our study of 2 Timothy, that throughout the New Testament period, there would be eras where culture would be marked by this kind of behavior. We also saw that as we approach the last days, before the return of Christ, then, as it says in verse 13, things are going to go from bad to worse. Things will escalate, they will intensify. The pathology of our society would go awry.
That seems to be the very atmosphere we have unfolding in our culture today. Paul says that we should realize this, we should know this, we should be ever-mindful of this. Not only just to be aware of it, but to expect it, to plan for it. Really, what he is saying to us is, ‘Don’t be caught off-guard as these things happen.’ While the culture goes from bad to worse, while the culture drifts at an increasing rate, we, as followers of Jesus, are to be different. We are not to be swept along with the tide. He emphasizes that in this section by using two little words, each have two letters to them. It is the words, ‘su de’ s-u-d-e. We could translate it, ‘but you,’ you should be a contrast.
In verses 1-9, he describes this drift in the culture and then he comes to verse 10 and he says, ‘Su de, but you, by contrast, are different.’
In verse 13 he is going to say that evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
Then, in verse 14 he says, ‘Su de, but you, by contrast, should be different.’
We are going to see this in coming weeks in chapter 4, verses 3 and 4. It says “The time will come when they (and the culture) will not endure sound doctrine but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, they will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”
Then, in verse 5 he says, “Su de, but you, by contrast, should be different.”
I believe that what Paul gives us in the rest of this chapter and the next chapter in 2 Timothy, from chapter 3, verse 10 and following, is a Last Days Survival Guide. It is a guide that will enable us to live through the escalating days of drift. It is a guide that will enable us to experience victory in the rising tide of rejection that is all around us. And, it is a survival guide that will enable us to honor Jesus Christ with our attitudes and with our actions.
It is going to take us several weeks to look at this Last Days Survival Guide. There are four parts to it. I want to preview it all for you right now. If we are going to survive as this culture shifts and drifts, there are four things we need to do.
Number one, we need to learn from consistent godly examples. We see that in chapter 3, verses 10-13, which is what we are going to look at today.
Secondly, if we are going to survive, number two, we need to nourish our life and others with Scripture. We are going to see that in chapter 3, verse 14, over into verse 5 of chapter 4.
If we are going to survive all of this drift, number three, we need to focus on finishing well. We are going to see that in chapter 4, verses 6-8.
If we are going to survive the drift of the culture, number four, we need to keep community a priority and we are going to see that in chapter 4, verses 9-22.
So, that is the guide laid out for us. What we want to do is, zoom in this morning on the very first part of that. I invite you to look with me at chapter 3, verses 10-13. I am going to read verses 10-13 and invite you to follow along.
It says in verse 10, “Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
He has talked about this drift in the first nine verses of the chapter and then we come to verse 10 and we have that very first su de. I like the way the NIV translates it, it says, “You, however.” And, he is going to talk about how, if we are going to survive the drift, we need to learn from consistent godly examples.
This section is interesting because, the main verbs in verses 10 and 11 are past tense verbs, aorist tense in the original language. They talk about how Timothy learned in the past from Paul’s example. Then, in verses 12-13, the verbs change to future tenses, the main verbs. They are talking about what we will be facing.
So, let’s look at how we are to learn from consistent, godly examples. In verse 10 he says, “Now you, su de,” in contrast to the culture and where it is going. “You followed,” it is a word that means ‘to follow very closely.’ He is basically saying, ‘You followed my example, Timothy.’
By the way, following an example, a consistent, godly example, is a favorite theme of Paul. We see it over and over again in the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians, chapter 11, he says to the believers, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” Watch my consistent, godly example.
He says, in Philippians, chapter 3, verse 17, “Brothers, join in following my example.”
And, then to the Thessalonian believers, he says of them, “You became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia,” in chapter 1, verse 7 [1 Thessalonians]
In 2 Thessalonians, chapter 3, verse 7, he says, “You ought to follow our example.”
And then, to Timothy he says, “Timothy, set an example in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.”
Then, to Titus he says, “In all things, Titus, show yourself to be an example of good deeds.”
A very common theme of Paul that we are to learn from examples and we are to be examples for others.
I was the firstborn in our family. I have two younger sisters. One of the things I learned, being the firstborn, was how much the younger sisters would watch my example. Sometimes that was a good thing and sometimes it wasn’t such a good thing. When we had children, our firstborn was Rebekah. When Rebekah was very little, I began to say to her, “Rebekah, you are an example. You need to remember that you are setting an example for your sister, Emily, and for your brother, Kyle.” We had Emily and Kyle coming behind her. Jennifer came along a little later. But I was always telling her that, “You are setting an example for Emily and Kyle.” Then, I sat down with Emily and said the same thing to her, “You are setting an example for Kyle and you are setting an example for Jennifer.” And I sat down with my son, Kyle, and I said, “You are setting an example for Jennifer.”
We need to remember that we are always examples and we need to learn from good examples. When we talk about learning from good examples, it doesn’t mean we put them up on a pedestal and sort of worship them. No, it means that we use them as a model. It means that we learn from them.
Paul points out here that Timothy closely followed his example. He is going to say to him, you followed my example in nine areas. You closely followed my example in nine ways. Let’s look at them. In verse 10 he says, “Now you followed,” you closely followed, number one, “you followed my teaching.” You followed what I taught and how I taught. I‘ve learned from that, I’ve learned from watching people’s teaching. I learn from many models, many good, consistent examples.
For example, from Dr. Charles Ryrie, who was one of my professors at Dallas Seminary, I learned the importance of teaching with a spirit of grace and graciousness.
From Chet McCauley, who was a pastor in Kansas City, who was the first one to teach me grace, I learned about the importance of teaching with simplicity and clarity.
From John MacArthur I learned the importance of a total dedication to Scripture and a commitment to mine the depths of truth.
From Chuck Swindoll I learned the importance of authenticity and character when you teach the word of God.
And, from Gene Getz I learned the importance of identifying applicational principles that apply to everyday life.
He says to Timothy, ‘You closely followed my teaching.’
Number two, he says, ‘You closely followed my conduct, how I lived my life.’ By the way, those two are very closely related, your teaching and your conduct. I mean, nothing is more hypocritical, nothing is more hollow, than someone who teaches something that is the opposite of the way that they live their life.
He watched Paul carefully and followed his example carefully, not only in what he taught, but how he lived his life, how he conducted his life. He watched Paul deal with very significant physical problems in Paul’s life. He watched him deal with that. He watched Paul deal with problem people. He observed Paul’s commitment to serve other people, rather than just serving himself, putting himself number one. He saw in Paul someone who was a servant of the Savior, not a spiritual celebrity, which Paul could have practiced if he had chosen to do so. You followed carefully my conduct.
Number three, he says, ‘You followed carefully my purpose, my guiding motives of my life.’ There are several of them we could look at. In Philippians 1:21 Paul says, “To live is Christ.” That was part of his passion and his motive for getting up everyday.
In Acts 20:24 he said, “My whole goal is to finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.” It is what drove Paul on, it was part of his purpose, part of his motives every day of his life.
Keep your finger here, turn a few pages to the left, to Colossians, chapter 1, the very end of chapter 1, in verses 28 and 29. We have another expression of Paul’s motives, his guiding motives. He said, “We proclaim Jesus, admonishing every man (every person) and teaching every person with all wisdom, so that we may present every person complete in Christ.” And, he says “It is for this purpose that I labor.” It is working to the point of sweat, “striving according to God’s power, which mightily works within me.”
Paul’s guiding motives in his life. He says, ‘Timothy, you followed my purpose, you closely followed,’ fourthly, ‘my faith. You watched me and saw how I trusted God. I trusted God’s power, I trusted God’s providence in my life.’
He said, ‘You closely followed,’ number five, ‘my patience.’ We could translate this ‘long suffering.’ This is a word that refers to putting up with people. He says, ‘You watched closely my example of putting up with people, putting up with the criticism that came, putting up with the unreliability of people, the fickleness of people, the immaturity of people.’ He said, ‘You watched carefully my patience, my long-suffering.’
‘You closely followed,’ number six, ‘my love.’ He is saying, ‘You watched my example, you saw that I am not out to use people, rather I am out to care for people and to build people up.’
He said, ‘You followed closely,’ number seven, ‘my perseverance.’ It’s the word, in the original, ‘hupomone’ h-u-p-o-m-o-n-e. This word refers to life circumstances. The other word, patience, had to do with putting up with people, this has to do with putting up with life circumstances, holding up under the pressure of life, sticking with it when the going gets tough. It did in Paul’s life. If you’ve forgotten that, you need to take a visit later back to 2 Corinthians, chapter 11, and just look at the circumstances he dealt with in his life.
He said, ‘You have followed closely,’ numbers eight and nine, in verse 11, ‘my persecutions and my sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra.’ He said, ‘Do you remember the example of what happened there?’ He is referring to three cities he visited on his first missionary journey. If you wanted to summarize what happened on that first missionary journey you could summarize it with the phrase, ‘R & R,’ that’s pretty much what happened to him on his first missionary journey, especially at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. It was R & R, it was riots and rocks, that is what he experienced.
He talks about, ‘You remember such as happened to me at Antioch,’ we see from Acts 13:50, there you have the elite women and men of the city who start a riot against Paul.
Then, he said, ‘You saw such as happened to me at Iconium.’ We learn from Acts, chapter 14, verses 4-6, we see there another little mini riot and a plot to stone Paul. You remember what stoning was? That is where you got pretty big, chunky rocks and threw them at somebody so hard that eventually you killed them.
He said, ‘You saw such as happened to me at Lystra.’ We learned from Acts, chapter 14, verse 19, that is where Paul…not really a riot…and Paul got stoned. He was under a pile of rocks and they thought he was dead, which is what normally happened, but God healed him and he popped right back up.
He said, “You closely followed my persecutions and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, Iconium and Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me!”
One might be thinking right about now, ‘Wait a minute, you talk about persecutions and sufferings, that is not always the result for people. We’ve heard stories of people who underwent persecutions and suffering and they don’t end up surviving physically. It’s not always the result, that there is a physical survival.’
I like what William Hendrickson wrote, he said this, ‘The Lord ever rescues His people, frequently from death, sometimes by means of death, either way nothing ever separates them from His love.’
He says to Timothy, ‘You closely followed my example.’ It is important to learn from consistent godly examples.
Now, as we come down to the next verses, the main verb tenses are going to shift to future tense. This is what we can expect. Look at verse 12, he says there, “Indeed,” the NIV says, “In fact,” let me give you the facts, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
By the way, this is one of numerous counter verses in the Bible to a common set of teaching out there we call the prosperity living teaching. It is the teaching that says that God desires for every believer, it is the will of God for every believer to be 100% healthy and 100% wealthy. Prosperity living teaching just flat does not hold up to the Word of God. In fact, it just doesn’t hold up to what we even observe in life. Try selling prosperity living teaching to followers of Jesus in a totalitarian Islamic country. It’s not going to wash [people won’t believe it or accept it]. They are going to laugh you right out of the city. Because, you see, in some of these countries being a follower of Jesus Christ is against the law. In some of these countries, by being a follower of Jesus Christ you will face arrest, you will face beatings, you will face imprisonment and you will even face worse.
He says, ‘The fact is that all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.’ By the way, the word ‘all’ here is emphatic in the original language. He is basically saying this, ‘Anticipate it, anticipate it.’ “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
Jesus Himself said in John, chapter 15, verse 20, “A slave is not greater than his master, if they persecuted Me,” and they did, “they will persecute you.” Now, when it comes to what we might call gospel suffering, suffering because of the gospel, in the United States of America, in the past years we have really had the ultra light version of that. But I think that is changing, men and women.
We were talking as a staff just this past week about what is happening right now in our culture. To someone who just speaks up, it might be publicly or even on the internet, by something that you write, what is happening to people who speak up about God’s perspective on homosexual behavior, and how you’re being attacked and how people are being shouted down. It is happening right this very moment, as I am speaking, in our culture, in multiple places.
He says, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” He is basically saying this, ‘If we boldly stand up for Biblical values, especially as the culture drifts, we will receive back hostility. We will be misunderstood. We will be maligned. If we boldly stand up for Biblical values, it will breed coming back at us from the culture, the three ‘C’s.’ The three ‘C’s” are confrontation, condescension, and conflict. That is what will come flying back at us. They will confront us, they will be condescending to us, ‘You’re stupid, you are fools, you are idiots,’ and it will lead to conflict.
My ancestors came to the United States of America seeking the freedom to live out Biblical values without persecution. I am an eighth generation American. My ancestors were French Huguenots, that really means that they were Germans who fled from Germany to France, seeking to have religious freedom to live out Biblical values without persecution. Then, they had to flee from France to the United States of America looking to have freedom to live out Biblical values. I was just thinking about the drift that is going on in our culture today and I think, if my relatives from eight generations back were to suddenly be plopped down in our culture today, I wonder if they would even recognize where we are going. ‘
“Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Paul is saying, ‘Anticipate it, just anticipate it.’
We are not to do this with a martyr complex, we are not to do this where we go out of our way to incite hostility from the people around us. It just means that if and when it happens, and it will, that we should be obedient, not obnoxious.
So, I think we are going to see this ramping up, ramping up, ramping up. I think we are moving away from the days of the ultra light version of gospel suffering. As it ramps up, we need to remember some things. We need to remember what Jesus said. By the way, there have been tens of thousands and tens of thousands of people who had to go and embrace some passages that maybe we haven’t even thought about.
We need to remember that Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me,.” because of standing up for Biblical value. We need to remember what Jesus said.
We need to remember the example of Peter and John. Remember how Peter and John were arrested, they were imprisoned, they were flogged? Anyone interested in flogging? They went through that and their reaction to that, in Acts, chapter 5, verse 41, it says this, “Peter and John went on their way…rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.”
Verse 13, Paul said that “Evil men and impostors,” the second word just means spiritual charlatans, “will proceed from bad to worse.” Literally, what it says in the original, ‘they will advance to the worst.’ Very interesting turn of a phrase. These evil men and these spiritual charlatans will advance to the worst. In other words, the intensity of evil in the world is going to worsen and they will be deceiving, he says, and being deceived. By whom are they being deceived? It is going to be by Satan himself, doing the deceiving. They are deceiving, but they are, at the same time, being deceived by the enemy.
In the end times, just before the return of Christ, when the anti-Christ, who is a real person, is present and his false prophet, we learn that the deception is going to be so heightened, it is going to be so strong, it will be like Jesus said in Matthew 24:24, when He said, “For false Christs and false prophets will appear, they will perform great signs and miracles, to deceive even the elect,” that is talking about us, “if possible.” That is how great the deception is going to be in the end times.
The deception is going to be so great that the only way we can discern what is true from what is false is through the Word of God. That is why next time, as part of our Last Days Survival Guide, we are going to talk about how we need to nourish our life and others with Scripture.
We want to conclude what we’ve looked at today with some life response, the application. I believe there are two key questions we should be asking. The first question is, who is my consistent godly example? That is a great question to ask because part of our survival guide is to learn from consistent godly examples. So, who is my consistent godly example? Who do you hang out with? I’m not really talking about just hanging out with someone in terms of physical presence, they are in the same room with you, but who do you hang out with in terms of who you listen to, who you are getting input from?
Rob Gallaty, who for many, many years was a youth speaker, he is now a pastor, he used to say to the youth, ‘Your friends will determine your future.’ He would actually say these words to the youth. He would say, ‘Listen, if you want to know your future, take a photograph of your friends, because that picture will tell you where you are going. If you don’t like where you’re going you need to change who you spend time with.’
Who is your consistent, godly example? There are all kinds of consistent, godly examples out there. For you, I don’t know, it may be a parent. It may be a grandparent. It may be a Christian leader on some level, it may be a Christian businessperson, but who is your consistent, godly example? From whom are you learning about the Bible and what it teaches? From whom are you looking at someone’s example to learn about what it means to trust Christ in everyday life? From whom are you learning what it means to walk through pain, because pain comes to all of us. From whom are you learning about marriage, what marriage really means, what it means to be a husband, what it means to be a wife, and what it means to be a family? Who is your example for that? From whom are you learning what it means to serve people rather than just serving yourself and being focused on self? Who is my consistent, godly example?
The second question, very important, what kind of example am I? Just as I told my kids when they were growing up, there is always somebody watching. Who is watching you to learn how I should forgive other people? Who is watching me to learn about how I spend money? Who is watching me to learn about how I treat my spouse and how I treat other people? Who is watching you when it comes to just learning about what it means to serve other people, put other people ahead of yourself? Who is watching how I honor God? These are some questions worth pondering.
Who is my consistent, godly example and what kind of example am I?
Let’s pray together. Father, so often we come to You at this time and I just want to thank You for the Word of God. I am just forever amazed at how alive this book is and Lord, I am so grateful that You have made things clear. We can’t say we had no idea what to do because Your word is so clear, so directive. Help us, Father, as the culture drifts, to look for those consistent, godly examples that we need to learn from. Father, help us to be the kind of examples for those who are watching us. We are so grateful for who You are. We thank You for the power and the ability that You give to us to live out these things, to be the example we should be. We want Jesus Christ to be honored by all that happens and we pray these things in His name. Amen.
Questions for Reflection: (week ten)
–Make a list of some of the more significant ways our society has recently “gone awry.” What do you see at the most dangerous shifts?
–“All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Share some ways you or others you know have been misunderstood and maligned, or became targets of condescension and conflict due their public stand for Christ and truth.
–We looked at Matthew 5:11-12 and Acts 5:41. How ready are you to respond in that manner WHEN confronted with pressure and persecution. Be honest. What would help prepare you?
–Who have been consistent, Godly examples in your life? List some of the lessons you have learned by their example.
–Who is watching your example most closely? In other words, to whom are you an influence?
–Paul listed nine areas where Timothy had closely observed his example: His teaching, his conduct, his purpose, his faith, his patience (putting up with people), his love, his perseverance (holding up under the pressure of life), his persecutions and sufferings.
In what areas could you reasonably say to others, “Follow my example as I follow Christ? “
In what areas would you be most reluctant to say that? Explain why.
–In which area are you strongest? weakest? How you forgive, How you spend $$, How you serve others, How you parent? How you honor your spouse, How you honor God?
–Take time to thank God for the consistent, Godly, positive examples in your life. If they are still living, take time to pray for them to finish their spiritual race well.