Many of us want to know God’s way and hear gospel truth, but we avoid living it. Sadly, in today’s church it is acceptable to enjoy sermons and worship, yet go home completely unchanged.
Paul said of his own testimony, “My speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Corinthians 2:4, ESV). If we are not living a life empowered by God, the problem is with us, not the Lord.
God didn’t stop giving His people power in 100 A.D. Jesus never said, “Greater works than these shall you do—until the Reformation.” Paul preached a message of gospel power and he wanted that power for Timothy for a specific reason: “In the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless . . . not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people” (2 Timothy 3:1-5, ESV).
Paul is speaking here of churchgoers but describes them as having only “a form of godliness.” These Christians didn’t mind going to the synagogue, reading spiritual texts or taking part in religious activities. Yet Paul’s advice to Timothy was, “Avoid them.” He was saying, “It’s dangerous to be around those people. You’ll start to think their way is acceptable. They may look godly, but the Lord looks on the heart—and He sees unholiness and conceit.”
Paul said these Christians were “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (3:7). In other words, they listened to all the gospel teachings but never took them to heart. That made them powerless, Paul said, because they “oppose the truth” (3:8).
Note how Paul begins this passage: “In the last days there will come times of difficulty” (3:1). He makes clear that “normal” Christianity won’t be sustainable in the days to come, that perilous times will wither a superficial faith. I am probably the least prophetic Christian alive, but even I can see bad times on the horizon. When global economies teeter, the average American faces financial disaster, and political upheaval heightens, then something has to give.
What will most Christians do when things turn really bad? Are our hearts truly prepared to deal with hard times? I pray we’ll react as the church in Acts did when they learned of a coming famine. They did not stockpile goods against the coming tide. Instead, they took up an offering for other churches whom they knew would suffer.