2 Timothy 3

Read 2 Timothy 3.

There are good reasons to be glad to be alive today. Life expectancy is greater than it has been in hundreds of years. Technology has given us the ability to communicate constantly and never to be bored. Poverty has been falling around the world (source).

So, by those gauges, times are good! Here in 2 Timothy 3:1, however, Paul prophesied “terrible times in the last days.”

The “last days” in the New Testament began on the Day of Pentecost, shortly after Christ left this earth. Paul said that these last days would be “terrible times” based not on poverty or low life-expectancy, or war. What he defined as “terrible” was the moral condition of people (vv. 2–5). As human society gets older, humans become less morally restrained. That may please those without morals who seek mainly pleasure in this life, but the effects of unrestrained immorality are devastating to humanity. You don’t have to look very far to see illustrations of everything listed in verses 2-3. Society may have become more affluent, better educated and more but, morally speaking, things are “terrible” (v. 3).

So what do we do about it? Do we rail against the sins of society? Do we seek positions of power in the government so as to force submission to God’s word on others?

No.

The contrast to the “terrible times in the last days” is not to mobilize and become crusaders against the evils of humanity. There might be a place for that, but it isn’t the primary thing God wants from us. Instead, what God wants is for us to “…continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it” (v. 14b). And “from whom” did Timothy learn? From Paul, for verse 10 says, “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance….”

Yes, society is decaying morally and people are living more and more wickedly. The prescription for us, however, is to keep following Christ, keep trusting him, keep living patiently and lovingly, growing in grace and holding steadfastly to the truth. That’s a prescription for persecution (v. 12) but it comes with Christ’s promises to sustain us.

Think times are terrible? Then “continue in what you have learned and become convinced of” (v. 14).

1 Kings 11, Hosea 14, 2 Timothy 3

Read 1 Kings 11, Hosea 14, and 2 Timothy 3 today. This devotional is about Hosea 14.

This chapter is yet another plea from one of God’s prophets to God’s people to repent of their sins (vv. 1-3) and serve God alone (v. 8a-b). Sandwiched between these two elements are the ardent promises of God to “love them freely” (v. 4) and cause the nation to blossom (v. 5b, 7c) and flourish (v. 7b). 

With promises like these, repeated over and over and over by God’s prophets, why didn’t God’s people at least try it? Why–with few exceptions–did generation after generation follow idols and forsake the Lord?

The answers are in verse 9: “The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.” The sinfulness, the rebellion that comes naturally to our human hearts causes us to stumble over God’s commands. We are unable to “walk in them” until we are righteous and only God can declare and make someone righteous. 

This is the BIG lesson of the Old Testament. God makes promises and teaches humanity his ways but humanity rebels against God and stumbles in his ways unless God breathes new life into our dead spirits. The Israelites should have read the words of these prophets and cried out to God for help to overcome the rebellion of unbelief. Instead, people rejected God’s word or tried to cobble together their own religion of Judaistic “good works” plus something else like Baal worship. Note that before God said the righteous would walk in his ways in verse 9 he first said in verse  4, “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely….” 

If you find yourself trying to live the Christian life but failing, this is what you need. You need to cry out for the righteousness of God and the new life he gives through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

This is what our kids need, our friends need, our neighbors need; it is what we all need. We don’t need to try harder to walk in God’s ways or reduce God’s ways to a list of requirements. We need  God’s grace and the righteousness of Christ given to us by faith. 

Then we will grow and flourish and blossom and show all the other signs of life and blessing that are described in this chapter. Then God will be glorified in us and we will bless us “like the dew” (v. 5).

Joshua 24, Jeremiah 46, Romans 8

Read Joshua 24, Jeremiah 46, and Romans 8 today. This devotional is about Romans 8.

In the previous chapters of Romans, we were taught much about the Law and its relationship to humanity. In chapter 7, we learned that God’s Law is great and holy; our problems with it are not with IT but with ourselves: “…the Law is spiritual but I am unspiritual….” Paul wrote of himself that he was, “sold as a slave to sin” (7:14) and his self-description applies to us as well.

As Christians, we are torn by our mental and spiritual desires to obey God’s law (7:21-22, 25b) and our sin nature which rebels against God’s holy commands and makes us subject to death (7:16-20, 25c).

What is the remedy for this spiritual dilemma?

Romans 8:1: “ Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We are “in Christ Jesus” therefore the condemnation of the law has been removed from us. That removal took place through the atonement of Christ for our sins (vv. 2-3). The result of his atonement is that you are not guilty before God because God has credited to you the righteous life Jesus lived (his “active obedience”) and the atoning death Christ died (his “passive obedience”). Verse 3b-4 says that in these words, “And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

Did you notice that phrase, “in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us….” If you are in Christ, you’ve kept the law fully. The law has no beef with you because Christ has fulfilled it all on your behalf. He’s met every standard spelled out there and paid every penalty for your failures (and mine).

Many Christians live with a feeling of defeat. We beat ourselves up for our sin struggles and our failures. If that’s you, please take heart today. If you’re in Christ, it’s all good. Jesus has done all that you will ever need to cancel the law’s condemnation over your life and to declare you perfect in the sight of God. “Therefore,  there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” so stop condemning yourself and live in the freedom of complete forgiveness!