IN THE DAYS OF HIS POWER SERIES.
TOPIC: HAVING THE FORM OF GODLINESS WITH ITS POWER FULLY INTACT
Rev. Innocent Peace-Udochukwu President Living Fountain Ministries Int’l LIFOM
“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”
2 Timothy 3:5
PAUL warns us of certain characters which will appear in the last times. It is a very terrible list. The like have appeared in other days, hut we are led by his warning to apprehend that they will appear in greater numbers in the last days than in any previous age. “Lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” These will swarm like flies in the decay of the year, and will make the times exceeding perilous.
Those who have a form of godliness are those who make an outward display of religion. They present themselves as godly, but it is all for show. There is no power behind their religion, as evidenced in the fact that their lives are unchanged. They speak of God and live in sin, and they are fine with that arrangement. As commentator Charles Ellicott wrote, “These, by claiming the title of Christians, wearing before men the uniform of Christ, but by their lives dishonouring His name, did the gravest injury to the holy Christian cause”
These false Christians are destructive. Paul warns that they will “creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts” and that they are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:6–7, NKJV). He compares them to the wicked magicians who opposed Moses and warns that their folly and corrupt minds will be revealed to all eventually (verses 8–9).
The power of God, which should accompany the form of godliness, is shown through the Holy Spirit and results in the transformation of our lives. The Holy Spirit indwells the believer (1 Corinthians 6:19) and enables him to bear certain fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22–23).
Paul’s exhortation to Timothy falls in line with James’ explanation how to identify a true faith (James 2:14–26). True faith will be evidenced by good works, which will occur naturally. If a person says he is a Christian but shows no evidence in his life by bearing the fruit of the Spirit, we have to make a judgment about him and avoid that person. He may have a form of godliness, but he is denying God’s power by not letting himself be controlled by the Spirit. In fact, if his faith is not genuine, he cannot be controlled by God’s power, because the Holy Spirit does not dwell in him.
“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). The natural person may have a form of godliness, but he denies God’s power in the way he lives. Only faith in Jesus Christ can bring justification and the transformation he so desperately needs (Colossians 1:21–22; Romans 5:1–2).
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”
2 Timothy 3:1-5
These verses give us a concise but graphic overview of powerful and evil attitudes driving this world toward the brink of annihilation. We have all been victims to some degree of these ungodly attitudes. We cannot escape being affected by them, and even after conversion, it is difficult to fend them off. This overriding way of life has an invasive way of forcing one to concentrate attention on self-satisfaction. It leads one to believe that life, government, employer, or society owes him a living. A strong sense of obligation to serve others, especially freely given service, and loyalty are major victims of its onslaught because it produces the attitude that one is owed rather than that one owes.
Notice how many of the descriptors given in these verses directly relate to focusing on the self.
Self-satisfaction is the foundation, the launching pad, and driving force that motivates sin. It is sin’s very essence. We should not be deceived into thinking that God does not want us to have any satisfaction in life, but we should rather understand that human nature, aided by Satan, easily allows conduct to get out of control and finds satisfaction beyond the bounds of righteous standards.
God wants satisfaction to be produced differently in us.
Sex is an area in which we can see this principle quite easily. God created and pronounced it very good as He stopped His work during Creation week. The Bible shows it is to be used for reproduction and binding a marriage ever more closely in an intimate, loving, pleasurable, and satisfying way as each partner gives and serves the other. God intends it for use within marriage only.
However, as we can see by observing the world, if a person lacks a strong sense of obligation to his mate or to God due to taking wedding vows, to God’s laws, or to his personal relationship with Christ, its use can get out of control when one seeks only to please himself. Self-satisfaction then becomes a destroyer of marriage and family life. The stability of the community is disturbed, and above all, one’s relationship with God can be shattered by means of something He intended for our good. A deep sense of obligation motivates us toward the vital virtue of faithfulness.
The Bible uses several metaphors to teach the result of human nature’s perverse longing for self-satisfaction. Paul notes in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Sin indebts us to death to an amount that, if we paid it, cuts off all hope of eternal life. Proverbs 22:7 adds important understanding to the spiritual principle involved here: “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” Sin put us in debt to the one we obeyed in sinning. Once we sin, we are living on borrowed time, and we, the borrowers, the debtors, lose our independence. In terms of sin, we owe our lives to someone else. A sinner is no longer his own man!
The idea of “servant” becomes clearer when we understand it as “slave.” Slavery is another metaphor for what self-satisfaction produces. Sin puts us in bondage to the cruelest taskmaster in the universe, Satan, the one who generates this host of self-centered attitudes. We are completely unable to break free from this bondage without supernatural help, as Hebrews 2:14-15 says:
Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
True religion is a spiritual thing, but it necessarily embodies itself in a form. Man is a spiritual creature, but the human spirit needs a body in which to enshrine itself; and thus, by this need, we become allied to materialism; and if not “half dust, half Deity,” as one has said, we are certainly both matter and soul. In each of us there is the form or body, and the soul or power. It is so with religion: it is essentially a spiritual thing, but it requires a form in which to embody and manifest itself. Christian people fall into a certain outward method of procedure, a peculiar outward mode of uttering their faith, which becomes to true godliness what the body is to the soul. The form is useful, the form is necessary, the form ought to be vitalized; just as the body is useful, and is necessary, and is vitalized by the soul. If you get both the form, as modelled in the Word of God, and the power, as bestowed by the Spirit of God, you do well, and are living Christians. If you get the power alone, without the ordained form, you somewhat maim yourself; but if you get the form without the power, then you dwell in spiritual death. The body without the spirit is dead; and what follows upon death with flesh? Why, corruption, corruption so horrible, that even love itself has to cry, “Bury my dead out of my sight.” So that if there be in any the body of religion without the life of religion, it leads to decay, and this to corruption; and that has a tendency to putridity of character. The raw material of a devil is an angel bereft of holiness. You cannot make a Judas except out of an apostle. The eminently good in outward form, when without inward life, decays into the foulest thing under heaven. You cannot wonder that these are called “perilous times,” in which such characters abound. One Judas is an awful weight for this poor globe to bear, but a tribe of them must be a peril indeed. Yet, if not of the very worst order, those are enough to be dreaded who have the shadow of religion without its substance. Of such I have to speak at this time: from such may God give you grace to turn away!
Get your godliness direct from heaven by the personal dealing of your own soul with your Saviour. Profess only what you possess, and rest only in that which has been given you from above. Your heavenly life, as yet, may be very feeble, but the grain of mustard seed will grow. You may be the least in Israel, but that is better than being the greatest in Babylon. The Lord bless these words, and apply them to each one in his own way by his Holy Spirit. You can make either a blister of them, or a plaster of them, as conscience shall direct. God guide you, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.
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