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).

Numbers 15, Psalm 51, Isaiah 5, Hebrews 12

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Numbers 15, Psalm 51, Isaiah 5, Hebrews 12. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Psalm 51.

As I was working through today’s passages, I was struck by a thread that runs through three of them. First, in Numbers 15:37-41 God commanded the people of Israel to sew tassels to the corners of their garments. Why? Numbers 15:39-40: “You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God.” In other words, the tassels were there to remind Israel not to sin particularly in the realm of sexual sins. At the very point of removing their garments, the tassels should have reminded them of God’s commands and that their covenants in marriage were made before God. It was one last emergency break before two of them committed immorality. I wonder how many sins were stopped and marriages were saved by this simple reminder?

Of course, if someone doesn’t care about God, or really wants to sin, or has never read in God’s law what the purpose of those tassels was, they will do no good. Rules and regulations can be safeguards to those who desire holiness and obedience but they are mere hassles to those who want to sin. Fortunately, as David exemplified in Psalm 51, God is merciful to those who call on him in faith seeking forgiveness. While we need God’s mercy and forgiveness, it is no substitute for a hunger for holiness. After pleading with God for his mercy and forgiveness, David turned in verse 10 to cry out for a holy heart: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” This is a sign of true repentance. We are so easily deceived by sin and find it so easy to rationalize in our own lives what we condemn in others, but when our sin is exposed, the harsh light cast on what it truly is, a truly repentant person wants God to change him or her. 

And why can God show mercy and forgiveness to us? Hebrews 12: “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” The joy that led Christ through the experience of the cross was the joy of showing mercy and grace to sinners and reuniting us to God through his sacrifice on the cross. 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.