This series has the subtitle, Case Studies in Evil. The theme comes from Paul’s words to Timothy – 2 Timothy 3:5 ESV having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. It is now time to begin our examination of these case studies. They are cases of evil being embodied behind “an appearance of godliness.” They are evil ones we have met wearing the facade of saintliness. We had best look at the verses once again:
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.
There will be difficult times in the last days – the days in which we live, the days before Christ returns. The church age in other words. And what we might initially conclude is that this era is difficult because of all the evil that is in the world. Evil such as Paul lists here in verses 2-4. But here is the vital point to get hold of – our primary difficulty doesn’t come from without, it comes from within. That is to say, these people who are so evil and who cause true believers to suffer so much trouble, are people with an appearance of godliness. That is to say, they are counterfeits. They are fake Christians. And notice this as well –
2 Timothy 3:6-7 ESV For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, (7) always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.
This is what these creeps do. They seek out weak people to deceive. I don’t fully understand the weak people Paul describes briefly here. He says, “weak women,” who are “burdened with sins and led astray by various passions.” He also points out that these targets of the evil creeps are not firmly grounded in truth. Does Paul use “weak women” as a figure of speech for professing Christians who are easily deceived due to their going “to and fro” in respect to the truth? I am not sure. But I do know this – the wicked creep in among us and go to work deceiving others. And these deceivers are cloaked in an appearance of godliness. This is the source of the difficult times Christ’s true people experience. We have to be constantly vigilant and we are going to have to do battle with these kind.
Alright then, let’s begin our look at these enemies fleshed out in real time. Let’s talk about Dave.
Dave was and is a highly respected member of his community. He is energetically active in all sorts of community service venues. Half a dozen committees, task forces that take him to the state capital, and most significantly Dave is the go to guy in his church. Chairman of the deacon board who presides at congregational meetings and board meetings. The guy who everyone recognizes as the one who gets things done. Teaches an adult Sunday School class. And more.
If you asked the typical church member of Dave’s church to characterize Dave, they would tell you, “Dave is the godliest man I have ever known.” He visits members in their homes, in the hospital, and will be there anytime there is something to be fixed.
But Dave is something else as well. Dave is a narcissist. Dave is motivated by an intense lust to be “first.” Dave feeds on the recognition and praise. When he was voted “citizen of the year” in the community, everyone in the church was so proud of him. My, what a wonderful testimony for Christ is Dave! But…Dave’s motive is pure evil. Dave has an appearance of godliness, but he denies its power. Dave is not born again. Dave does not know the Lord.
And if you watch carefully and with wisdom…
You will see flashes of the real Dave. Of who he really is. All you need do is disagree with him. When the new pastor came and began his ministry at Dave’s church (and it was, literally, “Dave’s church”) Dave was very threatened by this newcomer. He would have to be controlled. He would be shown that Dave is the one who runs things here and received the glory.
But it did not happen.
Before long, Dave had been unable to control the outbursts of his real self. He threw tantrums in meetings. And ultimately he threw a huge fit right there in the worship service, announcing that if he was no longer needed he may as well leave. And he did. No matter to Dave if there were children present there in the sanctuary. No matter if some new Christian or an unsaved person seeking Christ was there. No. Dave was the god to be worshipped and obeyed.
Dave went right down the road to another evangelical church, was welcomed in with open arms by the pastor and people, and began to play out his tactics there. It wouldn’t be long before he enjoyed that same worship and praise he craved. The pastor at his new church never bothered to contact the church Dave had come from. They swallowed Dave’s appearance of godliness in just a few minutes and told Dave they were sorry he had been so sorely treated.
Dave’s adult children don’t really like their father. They show up at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but really if they were honest they would not even want to come to those events. None of them know the Lord. Why would they want their father’s religion anyway? Dave’s wife has a reputation of being mean and unpleasant. Soon, people in the new church would know that she must be appeased – or else. And yet, everyone still embraced Dave as that fine saint who the church could not get along without.
Dave’s appearance of godliness was serving him well once more. But Christ was not in Dave. Dave denied the power of godliness. His religion was not the gospel of Christ, but that of the Pharisees. Dave was a whitewashed tomb full of dead men’s bones.
Now, how do you identify a Dave. We know that it must be possible to make such an identification because Paul tells us to “avoid such as these.” What you do is, you watch for slips of Dave’s mask. You watch his demeanor when he is opposed. How does he react when someone says “no” to him? Dave threw tantrums when he was denied, especially if he could do so out of sight of most of the congregation.
Furthermore, Dave made others uncomfortable – if they would be honest with themselves they would admit it. Dave caused eggshells to be walked upon. And that is never healthy. It is one of the most common signs of the abusive person.
Then you would see, if you watched, that Dave consistently sought recognition. He craved to hold “office.” He volunteered for positions. He loved presiding at congregational business meetings where he would insist that things be done his way. People who disagreed with him were labeled “divisive.” Troublemakers, you know.
So, what was “godly” about Dave? Why did people conclude he was “the godliest person they ever met”? Because they were making their judgments based upon outward appearance. Dave only has an appearance of godliness, but true godliness resides within. In the heart. In a heart made new by Christ. A heart that truly loves the Lord and loves others. Dave’s life was in fact devoid of that love.
Most every local church has one or more Daves. We need to be able to recognize him and his kind and to not be duped by him. The Daves need to be exposed and expelled, or else everyone will be put into bondage to evil. Dave’s darkness will lead everyone else into even greater darkness, and all will fall into a pit.
Matthew 6:22-23 ESV “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, (23) but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!