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EVIL CHURCH MEMBERS IN THE LAST DAYS
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
“But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (II Timothy 3:13).
Dr. Harold Lindsell was the editor of the “Christianity Today” magazine from 1968 to 1978. He was the author of the landmark book The Battle for the Bible, and was the editor of two study Bibles. He was one of the founders of Fuller Theological Seminary, as it was before it descended into liberalism. He was also a personal friend who often spoke in our church, and gave a sermon at the wedding of my wife and I in 1982.
Dr. Lindsell wrote a book titled The Gathering Storm: World Events and the Return of Christ (Tyndale House Publishers, 1980). In that book he said,
The conditions which exist within the professing church point to the second advent of Jesus, for the Church in the world has been secularized significantly...there is no longer a Christian mind. Christians have been so brainwashed by secularism that they do not think like Christians. Their world and life view has its roots not so much in the Bible as in the agenda set by the world (ibid., p. 70).
He also quoted II Timothy 3:1-7 and gave the following comments,
America has produced a generation of self-centered, withdrawn, unsympathetic, irreligious, unpatriotic and characterless young people...Men cease to be men, losing those human characteristics and forsaking any decent world and life view that once distinguished men from pigs and horses (ibid., pp. 66-67).
Dr. Lindsell gave these comments directly after quoting II Timothy 3:1-7.
The passage in II Timothy three begins with the words “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come” (II Timothy 3:1). Dr. J. Vernon McGee said the Apostle Paul is telling us in II Timothy 3 “what is to be the future of the church – it is not a very bright future for the organized church. ‘The last days’ is a technical term...it speaks of the last days of the church” (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume V, p. 469; note on II Timothy 3:1). Dr. McGee went on to say,
“Perilous times shall come,” which means grievous or desperate times are coming. That doesn’t look like the conversion of the world, does it?...The Bible doesn’t teach that it will. That is the pipe dream of...a great many folks who have lived with their heads ostrich-like in the sand and have never faced reality. Instead, notice what will be coming in the last days. We have nineteen different descriptions given in the next few verses [In II Timothy 3]. It is an ugly brood, but we want to look at them because they present the best scriptural picture of what is happening today. We are, I believe, moving into the last days of the church...I don’t think you could ever find a period in which all of them are so manifested as they are today. I believe we are now in these “perilous” days which are described in this section. I don’t know how much longer it will last, but I’m sure it’s going to get worse, not better (ibid., pp. 469-470).
Please stand as I read verses 1 to 4.
“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” (II Timothy 3:1-4).
You may be seated. Why are so many people in our churches like that? Because for years pastors have baptized lost people without checking their testimonies carefully. That is why the churches are now full of lost people. They are filled with unsaved people as a result of accepting everyone as a Christian who has merely made a superficial “decision.”
In II Timothy 3:1-4 we are given 19 words or phrases that describe these people in our churches in “the last days.”
1. “For men shall be lovers of their own selves.” Lost people in the churches mirror the world by loving themselves more than Christ. Self-love is so prominent that most church members won’t even come to a Sunday evening service anymore. They love themselves so much that they will not go on visitation or soul-winning now. This is because we have packed the churches with unsaved people.
2. “Covetous.” Actually it means “lovers of money.” Man’s carnal nature loves to have a lot of money spent on it, because it loves itself more than Christ. The Bible says, “The love of money is the root of all evil” (I Timothy 6:10). Many lost young people stay in the church as long as their parents pay for everything. But soon after they get a job of their own, they leave. That is what “covetous” means!
3. “Boasters.” The Greek word is found only here and in Romans 1:30, where it is used to describe the condition of the pagan world. When we hear so-called “testimonies” today, they are often little more than a series of “boastings” about how bad they were, and how good they are now – with very little mention of Christ. It’s as though they saved themselves by a work of self-reformation! They do not glorify or magnify Christ because they have never been saved. They give a long story of how bad they were, and then say, “I was saved.” Where is Jesus in that? It is only boasting!
4. “Proud” – filled with pride, not humble. What a picture of lost church members in the “last days.”
5. “Blasphemers,” literally “railers.” When new people come to a church they are often turned off when they see so-called Christians railing against someone else in the congregation. This reflects the railing accusations that the world brings against godly Christians. The Hippie generation has always railed. It is one of their most common characteristics. Look at “Occupy Wall Street.” And when they come into a church they keep right on railing!
6. “Disobedient to parents.” How can people like that submit themselves to God? They can’t! Those who are disobedient to parents will rebel against authority in the church, as they do in the world. What a picture of the Hippie generation and their offspring! I think these are the very ones that are spoken of in this verse. No wonder they cause one church split after the other!
7. “Unthankful.” The Greek word is found only here and in Luke 6:35, where Jesus spoke of “the unthankful and...the evil.” No matter what kindness is shown to them, it never enters their mind to be thankful! We have seen people brought to church in our cars, fed at our expense, and even taken into our homes and cared for as if they were our own family members, only to have them leave the church without one word of thanks. They are so calloused that they can’t feel thankful! My mother took one boy into her home and treated him like her own son. She even drove him to school and gave him lunch money. When he left the church he stole her set of pure silver knives and forks, given to her as a wedding present. He made my mother cry, and did not give her one word of thanks. He did not even leave her a note when he left. “Unthankful.” We have seen it time after time in this evil generation.
8. “Unholy.” The word means “profane.” They live their lives in rebellion against God, and yet think they are Christians! They are rebellious against all authority.
9. “Without natural affection.” This means they have no natural love, either for their own flesh, as we see in abortions, or in unnatural sexual relations. They murder their babies and put their own parents in a horrible “rest home,” and seldom if ever visit them, and yet call themselves “Christians.” As Dr. Lindsell said, they are “unsympathetic.” What a horrible picture that is!
10. “Trucebreakers.” These are people that are irreconcilable. They refuse to let you get along with them. You can’t please them no matter how hard you try! You cannot make peace with them.
11. “False accusers.” My, how they love to spread rumors and attack others! Sadly, this is now as true in the church as it is in the world! Lost church members delight in backbiting others in the congregation.
12. “Incontinent.” This means “without self-control.” We see that all the time in our degenerate society. They come into a church, but they don’t stay very long, because they have no self-control. They are as wild as untamed animals. How horrible! They go from one church to the other. As Spurgeon said, “They are birds of passage, which nest nowhere.”
13. “Fierce” means “savage” (Dr. McGee). In our day the streets are often unsafe even in the daytime. And many churches are no safe haven for new Christians! So-called “Christians” are often as savage as the world around us! These are indeed “perilous times!” One teenager tried to murder her mother for imposing a curfew on her! That’s right! I read it in the newspaper Thursday morning. Young people do things now that we never even heard of in the 1940s or 50s!
14. “Despisers of those that are good.” It literally means “haters of the good.” It is the opposite of “a lover of good men” in Titus 1:8. A good, decent man is hated, while an evil man who is “cool” is loved. We see that in our elections, as well as in our churches. That is one of the main characteristics of this generation. They are “despisers of those that are good.”
15. “Traitors.” This literally means “betrayers.” These are people you just can’t trust. They will betray you every time, because it is their very nature to do so. By nature they are “betrayers.”
16. “Heady” means “reckless, headstrong in the pursuit of a bad end under the influence of passion” (Dr. Marvin R. Vincent). This describes those who act hastily and thoughtlessly. They no sooner join a church, than they leave it! You cannot trust reckless people! They are too “headstrong” and “reckless.”
17. “Highminded” means blinded by pride. This is the same Greek word used in I Timothy 6:4, “He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings.” According to one survey 89% of pastors have had to deal with so-called “Christians” like this, people who cause church splits. Think of it, 9 out of 10 pastors have experienced church splits because of people like this! They are “clouded [or blinded] with pride” (Dr. Vincent).
18. “Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” Literally “pleasure-lovers rather than God-lovers” (Dr. Vincent). Dr. McGee said, “Never has there been a time when so much money has been spent in order to provide pleasure...billions of dollars are being spent for entertainment because men are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God” (ibid., p. 471). This also explains why unsaved young people spend endless hours each day playing video games on a computer, but say they have no time for daily Bible reading and prayer! No wonder they don’t experience real conversion! They love pleasures more than God.
19. “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” They have “the mere outward semblance, as distinguished from the essential reality” of godliness (Dr. Vincent). “They go through the rituals of religion but lack life and reality” (Dr. McGee). People who are satisfied by just coming to church without knowing Christ are “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (II Timothy 3:7). You can preach the Gospel to them until you are blue in the face and they will go right on being satisfied with having “a form of godliness” without ever experiencing “the power thereof.” Sadly, there are many such people in our churches every Sunday!
What a picture of the “Hippie Generation,” those who are about 45 to 65 years old now – and to a somewhat lesser extent of their children and grandchildren! As Dr. Lindsell described them, they are “self-centered, withdrawn, unsympathetic, irreligious, unpatriotic and characterless.” They are described in II Timothy 3:1-8.
Now, if any of those 19 descriptions fit you, what is wrong with you? Notice the word “men.” It appears three times in the passage. “Men shall be lovers of their own selves” (verse 2). “So do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds” (verse 8). “But evil men...shall wax [grow] worse and worse” (verse 13). These references refer to lost people in a church, both men and women.
1. “They love themselves, not God.
2. “They resist the truth.
3. “They will grow worse and worse.
“Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (II Timothy 3:13).
Once people reach that stage they are seldom if ever converted because they are given up by God. When God gives up on you, it is everlastingly too late to be saved. But don’t comfort yourself too much. You can remain in a church and still be given up by God. I have seen that happen many times. However, if your conscience bothers you about your sin there is still hope for you.
If you are lost isn’t it about time you got very serious about seeking Christ? How can you stand going on and on knowing you could descend into Hell at any time? How can you live like that day after day? Jesus said, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:24).
I remember driving down to San Jose from San Francisco back in 1972 or 1973. A young Hippie was in the car with me. He talked all the way there and all the way back. He hadn’t been off of drugs very long, and his mind seemed to still be clouded. He talked on and on until I could hardly stand it! I remember thinking, “There is no hope for this fellow.” But I was wrong. He was converted after all! Today he is married with grown children, and he is the pastor of a church in Phoenix, Arizona! He can sing, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!”
If you are lost there is hope for you! But there is only one hope for you – and His name is Jesus! Trust Jesus and you will be saved!
Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into Thy freedom, gladness, and light,
Jesus, I come to Thee!
(“Jesus, I Come” by William T. Sleeper, 1819-1904).
If you are not yet saved please step to the back of the room now, and Dr. Cagan will take you to a quiet place to pray.
Now a few words to those of you who are saved. I know that II Timothy 3:1-8 is a dark and discouraging passage of Scripture. When we look at sinful man it is bound to discourage us. Yet I have also found great comfort from this passage over the years. It encourages me to read about the condition of the human race in Bible prophecy. It makes me think, “Well, that’s how the Bible said it would be. Things are bad, but they are not out of control. The Bible foretold this – and the God who gave us these words of Scripture is still on the throne!” Furthermore, the very next chapter in II Timothy says that “The Lord Jesus Christ…shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing…” (II Timothy 4:1). No matter how bad people get, Jesus is coming again! Think of these great words of song –
Dark was the night, sin warred against us;
Heavy the load of sorrow we bore;
But now we see signs of His coming;
Our hearts glow within us, joy’s cup runneth o’er!
Lift up your heads, pilgrims aweary;
See day’s approach now crimson the sky;
Night shadows flee, and Jesus’ coming,
Awaited with longing at last draweth nigh.
He is coming again, He is coming again,
The very same Jesus, rejected of men;
He is coming again, He is coming again,
With power and great glory, He is coming again!
(“He is Coming Again” by Mabel Johnston Camp, 1871-1937).
Nothing lifts a Christian’s heart like the Second Coming of Christ! I have always found it so! As I was preparing this sermon I consulted a book on prophecy edited by Dr. Charles L. Feinberg. I had forgotten where I got it, but there on the front page I read what a young Chinese man wrote when he gave me the book for a present back in 1971. His name is Ken Yee and he is now a pastor. I knew him because I spent every weekend at the Chinese mission in Sacramento during my first year at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. Ken wrote these words,
“Dear Bob, because of your example in loving sacrifice, because of your love for the church [the First Chinese Baptist Church of Los Angeles], because you love our mission [of the Los Angeles church], because of your vision which you so enthusiastically share, and finally, because you’re you and there’s no other – it’s been more than fun! Bless my soul! Maranatha – the Lord is coming! Love in Christ, Ken.”
Amen! Amen! When a person like Ken is helped by our ministry, it makes everything we go through worthwhile! A young man in our church told me he was discouraged because everyone he tried to help fell away. I said, “Yes, but the next one may stay, and that will give you joy that the world has never known!” Those you have led to Christ will rejoice with you when Jesus comes! Every Christian you have ever helped will be there to rejoice with you when Jesus comes! Amen! Maranatha – Jesus is coming!
The sky shall unfold, preparing His entrance;
The stars shall applaud Him with thunders of praise.
The sweet light in His eyes shall enhance those awaiting,
And we shall behold Him then face to face.
And we shall behold Him, we shall behold Him,
Face to face in all of His glory!
And we shall behold Him, Yes, we shall behold Him,
Face to face, our Saviour and Lord!
The angels shall sound the shout of His coming,
The sleeping shall rise from their slumbering place;
And those who remain shall be changed in a moment,
And we shall behold Him then face to face.
We shall behold Him, we shall behold Him,
Face to face in all of His glory!
And we shall behold Him, Yes, we shall behold Him,
Face to face, our Saviour and Lord, Our Lord!
(“We Shall Behold Him” by Dottie Rambo, 1934-2008).
(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: II Timothy 3:1-8.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Christ Returneth” (by H. L. Turner, 1878).