Our reading this morning is 2 Timothy 3: 1-9:
You must understand this, that in the last days distressing times will come. 2 For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, brutes, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid them! 6 For among them are those who make their way into households and captivate silly women, overwhelmed by their sins and swayed by all kinds of desires, 7 who are always being instructed and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8 As Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these people, of corrupt mind and counterfeit faith, also oppose the truth. 9 But they will not make much progress, because, as in the case of those two men, their folly will become plain to everyone.
This passage reminds me of one of John Wesley’s fears for Methodism. He wrote “I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.” I’ve always been taken by that concept of a “dead sect.” That’s a group that has all the outward appearances of religion, or even the outward appearances of holiness but doesn’t have the true power of the religion of Jesus Christ.
Wesley tells us that he believes that will happen when people turn from the truth of the Gospel: Jesus Christ, born, died, raised, and returning. The power of our religion, the truth of our religion, is Jesus Christ. Paul warns that in the last days folks will turn from Jesus, and we see proof of their abandonment in their actions – arrogance, lovers of money, ungrateful, hearted. They have turned from life found in Jesus to life found in this world, life found in themselves.
That is why we have to stay fully rooted in Jesus. Other paths may look life-giving, other paths may look like they will give what we need, what we desire, but those are false paths, they will lead only to our destruction, our alienation from God and others, a hardening of our heart and death.
Jesus leads to life, true life. In these days, in so many days, people will turn from Jesus to their destruction. Don’t turn from Jesus, no matter what. Don’t put your hope, your life, your identity, your purpose, your joy, all that you are don’t put this anything other than Jesus. Only Jesus is life. Only Jesus. Don’t turn away from Him, no matter what.
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