2 Timothy 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.
Before we move on to some case studies in evil disguised as godliness, there are one or two more points in these verses which we do not want to race by. They are:
- The people with these wicked hearts, these lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant….and right on down this devilish list of adjectives, are the ones Paul tells us have an “appearance of godliness.”
- The fact that we are instructed to avoid such people plainly implies that we are able to identify them.
This list describes the people that we are going to be talking about in the rest of these posts (eventually to become a book). No, every wicked person does not necessarily have the entire list of wickedness in them (although I suppose if we thought it through that in fact might be true!). But just consider that, for example, one of these children of the devil particularly evidences being abusive and heartless. Do not miss the point that such a person is quite capable of appearing to be a godly, holy, saintly genuine Christian.
They are not Godly. No way. But they have an appearance of godliness. The thing is wickedly deceptive. An abusive, heartless person (think about those qualities) IS abusive and heartless. But, they look like a child of God. That word “appearance” is interesting – “morphosis.” I took a botany class in college long years ago called “The Morphology of Vascular Plants.” It was a course in the outward structure and overall appearance of plants that have vessels in them (any of you remember xylem and phloem?) Anyway, you see it here. Outwardly if you were to study these devils you would see the appearance, the morph, of a Christian.
But inside where the real person exists…abusive and heartless.
Matthew 12:33-35 ESV “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. (34) You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (35) The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.
Now think! Think carefully! If we are going to spot these devil plants among us, then we have to STOP focusing on appearances. If you think that you know someone, but in fact your judgment of who they are is based only upon externals, then you do not know that person.
No, Jesus tells us that the real test is the fruit. It is the words they speak. It is the acts they perform when, now get this down, WHEN their “morph” is dropped. Often that drop only lasts for a second, but you have seen it and you can see it if you are wise. You know that confusing unpleasant feeling you get when a word or an action comes from a person and it just doesn’t match the image you have of them. The mask slips. They put it on again very quickly. Don’t ignore that fruit.
Now, the second point I stated above is the fact that we are told by the Lord to avoid such people obviously means that we are able to identify them!
How many times have we all been hammered by church leaders or other professing Christians or so-called Christian books we have read, telling us that we are never to make judgments like this? Huh? Hello! Christ’s instruction to us and all of Scripture says quite the opposite. How in the world are we going to avoid wicked people if we can’t identify them?!
This is why this truth is soooo important:
Hebrews 5:14 ESV But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
Training in the Word. Practice. Wisdom from the Lord. We have to train and become spiritual discernment musclemen (…women…people…). Ignore the verses in the Bible that you don’t find “pleasant” because they talk about evil and evildoers, and you are going to remain a powers of discernment wimp. You won’t distinguish good from evil and you will keep hanging out with evildoers wearing a mask of godliness. You will be their ally – and their target.