Age seems to have mellowed me. These days it takes a lot to get me upset or angry. But there are a couple exceptions: one is the hurting of the most innocent and helpless among us, especially those still in the womb; a second is what the apostle Paul described as the “having a form of godliness but denying its power” – particularly when that’s ascribed by church leaders and others of influence. And it’s this latter that I want to focus on today.
Let’s look at the complete scripture from which this phrase was extracted: “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.” 2 Timothy 3:1-9
This scripture has much to say about such a time as this that we live in, for it is indeed about “the last days.” 1. It links current events with some of the circumstances surrounding Israel’s exodus from Egypt – in particular the battle between false religion and God’s power; 2. It associates false religion with all the other evils mankind is driven to, because of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. 3. It blames false religion for the enslavement of many people to traditions, rituals and laws – thereby keeping them from the grace and blessing God intended for them.
The linkage between current events with Israel’s exodus from Egypt
Janis and Jamberes are names traditionally given to the magicians who contended with Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh, as described in Exodus 7. They represent the false religion of Egypt. Each time the power of God was demonstrated before Pharaoh, he called upon his magicians to try and replicate it. And each time, God’s power overwhelmed the other. You would think that would have settled the issue for the people of God, so that they would no longer question God’s power; but their ambiguous acceptance of God as their sole authority followed them throughout their journey to the Promised Land.
Even as they stood at the border, miracle after miracle later, ten of the twelve spies that Moses selected from among the leaders of the people expressed doubt that God’s promise of giving them the land would come to pass. They saw themselves as grasshoppers in the midst of giants – rather than as God’s mighty army. They even wanted to stone Caleb and Joshua when they spoke words of faith in God’s ability to bring them into the land and give it to them. And the result: all the adults except for Caleb and Joshua missed God’s best – as they died in the wilderness, rather than entering into His promise.
Isn’t this the reaction of many traditionalist church leaders today to any Christian who speaks words of faith in ALL of God’s promises? When they read Psalm 103, they pick and choose the portions that they buy into. The “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name!” and “Who forgives all your iniquities” parts are OK; but the “forget not all His benefits:, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s,” well – God didn’t really intend those promises to apply to any of the physical needs of His people!
I say, “Hogwash!” Yet, for those who say God won’t bless them with good health, emotional peace and other magnificent grace – He won’t. They’ll continue to wander in life’s deserts.
Association of false religion with other evils
(the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life)
I guess “faith people” shouldn’t be too surprised at the criticism and persecution directed at us from within the Church itself; because look at what happened to David when he believed God and spoke his mind. When he heard the Philistine Goliath insulting God and His people, David took the challenge and boldly declared he would defeat the giant. He trusted God would be with him in every challenge, because he had experienced God’s faithfulness previously when he faced down and killed a lion and a bear. He knew he wouldn’t have to face this new challenge alone. He believed God would fight that battle for him and with him.
But his “elder brother” got angry. First he insulted him and tried to put David down: “Why did you come down here? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness?” Then he tried to discourage him by accusing him of just acting out of pride: “I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.”
Isn’t this what many of the “elder brothers” in the Church often try to do with people or ministries of great faith. Because the elder brothers belong to denominations that have been around for a few to several hundred years, their pride takes over. They proclaim “We know better!” rather than ask, “What does God have to say about it?” They proclaim “God is able,” yet distrust that “God is willing.”
It’s even sadder when leaders follow in the footsteps of King Saul, who saw the people applauding David for the results of his greater faith and, instead of praising God and working with his brother in the Lord, he wanted to destroy him. Separation from God in matters of trust and faith opens the door for the devil to attack and tempt in other areas.
False religion leads to enslavement to traditions, rituals and laws
As we jump forward a few hundred years to the first century Church, we see even the great apostle Peter temporarily falling into this trap of religion. One moment we see Peter receiving a great vision from God of His desire to save all people, Jews and Gentiles alike; followed by Peter’s leading the Roman Cornelius to the Lord and baptizing his entire family. Yet, only a short time later Peter is seen avoiding visiting Gentile households, whenever other Church leaders come to town. Paul had to call Peter out on his hypocrisy.
This is what false religion does: it tries to keep people enslaved to traditions, rituals, and laws and fearful of speaking what God has revealed to them to be the truth. This form of godliness creeps in wearing a mantle of “God’s sovereignty,” or His holiness, or His mercy and grace – but denying selected promises of God. God is sovereign. God is Holy. God is merciful. And God administrates His grace to all who will receive it. But God is also a healer and a miracle worker and a deliverer. And with the same forcefulness and directness that He commanded: “Go and preach the Gospel,” He also commanded, “Lay hands on the sick and they will recover” and “cast out demons” and “prosper and be in good health even as your soul prospers.”
The same New Testament that declares a Christian to be saved by the Blood of Jesus also declares him and her to be an ambassador for Christ and a warrior in His army.
It’s OK to get angry when Religion preaches a False Gospel
A Christian is taught to be loving and kind and patient and meek in presenting the Gospel to the unsaved. That’s all true. But when a supposedly fellow Christian, especially a leader preaches a partial Gospel, or denies the power of God, or any of God’s promises, or disputes the delegation of authority and power to the Body of Christ (the Church), then we’re obligated to speak the truth. Just like Paul contended with Peter in regard to the availability of salvation to all mankind, so must we sometimes contend in love with our brothers and sisters. The most important thing is that ALL truth be made available to EVERY believer so they can live a victorious life on earth as well as in eternity.