When reading 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NCV), I can easily feel a bit satisfied with myself.
“Remember this! In the last days there will be many troubles, because people will love themselves, love money, brag, and be proud. They will say evil things against others and will not obey their parents or be thankful or be the kind of people God wants. They will not love others, will refuse to forgive, will gossip, and will not control themselves. They will be cruel, will hate what is good, will turn against their friends, and will do foolish things without thinking. They will be conceited, will love pleasure instead of God, and will act as if they serve God [will have a form of godliness] but will not have his power. Stay away from those people.”
“Evil people,” I think. “Thank God I’m not one of them.”
But something sounds familiar to me about my thoughts. I suddenly realise that I sound a lot like the Pharisee in Luke 18.
“God, I thank You that I am not like other men.” Luke 18:11.
But what did Jesus say about the Pharisee?
“For those who make themselves great will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be made great.” Luke 18:14 (GNT).
While I am thinking so highly about myself, being pleased that I’m not like those people, I am guilty of some of the things listed right there. I’m being proud and conceited (full of myself). I have to admit that is the truth.
Focus on your own development
What if I completely changed the way I read these verses? Instead of reading it as being about some other people, a group of sinners and hypocrites, why don’t I take it as a warning of what I could become if I am not awake and watch myself? In another place Paul strongly advises Timothy to do that very thing.
“Focus on working on your own development and on what you teach. If you do this, you will save yourself and those who hear you.” 1 Timothy 4:16 (CEB).
That is what it is all about. Watch and be awake so you don’t become all these ugly things because you are proud and well-pleased with yourself.
I’ve already seen how easy it is to be proud and arrogant, without even realising what is happening. What about the other things listed there?
Isn’t it actually very close to me to be a lover of myself? To want to protect my ego, my self-interests at all costs? Am I not, by nature, a lover of money? Am I always good to others? Do I always respect my parents? Am I thankful? Do I truly love God?
Or do I just sit back, happy with the fact that I am a Christian, happy to act like I serve God, to have a form of godliness but without its power?
The hope of the gospel
The power of true godliness is that all of those things can be overcome. Yes, I can easily be a lover of myself, but I can overcome that egoism. That is the hope that the gospel gives. That is the promise of what can happen in my life. The power of godliness is the power that we get through the Holy Spirit to overcome all temptations that come from my sinful nature. (Acts 1:8.)
So I need to be awake and watch out for those things in my own life. I need to love and admit the truth about myself, because it is the truth that will make me free from all of this human ugliness. When I see the truth about how I am by nature, then I can get grace to overcome it and become free from it. But I can’t do that if I don’t admit that it is true that I am proud, unthankful, and all of these other things.
“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32.
The verses in Timothy warn us of how it will go with someone who doesn’t have the power of godliness. Thanks to the grace of God, I don’t have to be one of those people.