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Saturday, August 18, 2012

You Obey the One You Fear

Well, here is a good, deeply challenging thought for today:

by Jon Bloom | August 17, 2012

At the root of insecurity — the anxiety over how others think of us — is pride. The pride is an excessive desire for others to see us as impressive and admirable. Insecurity is the fear that they won’t, but instead they will see us as deficient. As King Saul1 shows us, it’s a dangerous fear because insecurity can lead to great disobedience.

Samuel’s heart was broken and heavy as he neared the Saul’s camp at Gilgal. Israel’s first king had failed so soon and so seriously.
And Samuel was tired. He’d been up all night prayerfully mourning the Lord’s words, “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.”
And he was angry. The Lord had already severely disciplined Saul for officiating the burnt offering when he knew it transgressed the Law. But God had been gracious in giving him another chance by sending him to carry out judgment on the Amalekites. The instructions could not have been clearer. They had not been obeyed.
The old prophet trembled at the word he must deliver to an armed king who feared public humiliation more than the Holy One.
Saul was all smiles when he saw Samuel. “Blessed be you to the Lord. I have performed the commandment of the Lord.”
Samuel had to bite his tongue. “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?”
Saul felt immediately exposed. Alone he had figured that fudging some on the instructions really wouldn’t matter. But now he knew he had gravely presumed. He fumbled for words. “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the Lord your God, and the rest we have devoted to destruction.”
This was a smoke screen. “Stop!” Samuel cried. He could not bear Saul trying to cover disobedience with cosmetic righteousness. Nor his cowardly hiding behind the people. “I will tell you what the Lord said to me this night.”
Saul’s was defensive in his guilt. “Speak,” he said with a bravado disguise.
“Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And the Lord sent you on a mission and said, ‘Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord?”
Then looking over at the plump livestock, the price of Saul’s kingdom, Samuel said, “Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?”
Saul was defiant in his denial. “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord. I have gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.”
Samuel just hung his head in disappointment. And he shook it with a subtleness that stung Saul as much as anything the prophet had said…yet.
With teary eyes on the ground, Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
Samuel then paused and caught his breath. Slowly he looked up into Saul’s guilt-shy eyes. “Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.”
Saul nervously glanced at the wordless watching men around him. He was sweating. “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.”

Saul is a sober reminder to us that we obey the one we fear. He feared the people — he loved his reputation — and despised God. Being little in our own eyes can be either righteous or ruinous. It’s righteous if we see God as big and us as small. This actually frees us from fear. But it’s ruinous if the approval of man is what’s big to us because it always leads to disobeying God.
When we fail in this area, and all of us do at some point, God calls us not to remorse but to repentance. Saul was remorseful, but not repentant. He pursued the god of his own glory over the God who gave him that glory right to his death on Mount Gilboa. And he became lethally paranoid with insecurity.
So let us repent of our insecurities and say with Peter and the disciples, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). 

Monday, August 13, 2012

An Olympic Lesson in God's Omnipotence

Sad to see the Olympics end?

Every other year, whether Winter Games or Summer, it's thrilling when the Olympics arrive and captivate the world's collective attention for two full weeks. But most of us are at least a little glum to see them go, even if it does mean we finally get to catch up on some sleep.

There's a bigness to the Olympiad that fascinates us. It comes with a kind of transcendence that taps into a profound longing in the human soul. On display are the world's best athletes. From most of the world's geopolitical nations. The world's eye fixed on a single object as is rarely the case outside of war. From our limited vantage, few things seem to bring out humanity's oneness, and feel as globally significant in a good way, as the Olympic Games.

But as great as the Olympics are, there is something infinitely greater — Someoneinfinitely greater. The grandeur of the Games points us to the grandeur of God. The taste of transcendence they bring helps us see there's a Bigness and Magnitude that doesn't come and go for a couple weeks every couple years, but is here for our enjoyment forever — together with people from every tribe and tongue and nation.

John Piper helps us learn this Olympic lesson in the omnipotence of God:
During the Summer Olympics one of the camera maneuvers taught me something about the greatness of God. The opening and closing ceremonies were thrilling to most of the people who saw them. The sheer magnitude of the crowds and fireworks and music were a once-in-a-lifetime experience of bigness and grandeur.

Those of us who watched it on television could feel some of the thrill when the camera was high enough to take in the whole great sweep of the coliseum. But then something strange happened. The camera continued to recede into the sky where it was perched in the helicopter, and the coliseum became smaller and smaller until it was just a blurry dot on the ground.

As I watched that happen I was filled with joy in the greatness of God. I said to myself, "Look how thrilled we are with a coliseum full of color and sound. Look how we stand in wonder. Look how we shout and clap and feel excitement at the splendor of it all. But look again from God's perspective. Compared to his power and splendor, it's a blurry dot on the ground."

God puts on a minor display of his strength and splendor every morning as he brings the sun up over the horizon — 865,000 miles thick, 1.3 million times heavier than the earth, blazing on its cool edges at one million degrees Centigrade! Every morning has its opening ceremonies to thrill us with the power and the glory of God and fill us with hope that one day we will enter a land where all the wonders that have inspired us on this little earth will be like blurry dots in comparison with the magnificence of God's eternal closing ceremonies.

And every night God puts out a little puppet show of his majesty in the sky, with Perseus and Andromeda and Hercules and Orion and Leo the Lion and Draco the Dragon sporting about in the local galaxy 100,000 light years across.
"Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge." And what they teach so forcefully is that God is infinite in power. Nothing that has ever awed you can compare to him. He is God Almighty! Nothing can stay his hand. He does whatever he pleases. He is the Potter and the universe is his clay.

by David Mathis | August 13, 2012

Hosea- God's Redeeming Love

A little after the time that Amos was prophesying to the northern kingdom of Israel, another prophet divinely called by God stepped into the spotlight. 

He is the first minor prophet to be listed out of seven in the Scriptures. He often refers to Israel as Ephraim in this book. 

His name was Hosea, which means "salvation" or "deliverer". Joshua and Jesus are derived from the same name. Hosea was a prophet who lived and prophesied just before the destruction of Israel in 722 BC. He preached to the northern kingdom. The book that is titled his name is a combination of many sermons given over a period of several decades.

   Just as Amos seems like John the Baptist in his approach, so Hosea is like how Jesus approached the people. This reveals to us more of God's heart. Loving, compassionate and forgiving.

   Hosea prophesied during the reigns of 7 different kings. Most place the time of his work at 750-725 B.C. Amos and Hosea prophesied to Israel. Isaiah and Micah were prophesying in Judah who were other prophets during this time.
The northern kingdom of Israel was drying up. 

Sin was even more rampant than seen in the book of Amos. Religious, moral, and political corruption was rampant. No faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God, cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery, breaking all bounds, bloodshed following bloodshed. 

   There is much in Hosea about Baal worship. It is important to understand the thought and practice that went with Baal worship. Baal was the god of fertility. The earth was viewed as female and Baal was the male that fertilized her and was responsible for the rain and plentiful crops. The people thought that they could arouse Baal if they performed sex acts in his temple. So temple prostitutes were numerous and plentiful.

   Religious- Hosea summed up the religious activities of Israel in one word: Whoredom. As a harlot, she had prostituted herself before the false gods. The people lacked knowledge, and were ignorant of God's Commands. Idols had been set up and Israelite women were serving in the temples as cult prostitutes.

   Moral- Their conduct was the co
ntradicting to that which God required. The picture painted in the Book of Hosea is truly that of a nation in utter rejection of the Lord their God.

   Political- It was a era of political uneasiness in Israel. Upon the death of Jereboam, several kings came to the throne but were almost immediately assassinated, some after only a few weeks. The king of Assyria came against Israel and exacted heavy tribute from them. Then in 722 BC, the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom, with many of the people being carried off as slaves. These were trying years of political conniving and intrigue, of anarchy and rebellion, of treachery and murder. God was totally out of the people's hearts at this point of time. 

   The prophet's goal was to win the thinking of the Israelites back to the Lord, but they were too deeply steeped in their idolatry to pay any attention to his words of warning. They refused to hear the loving voice of God calling them to Himself. They despised His messengers bringing the words of love for His chosen people. They killed the prophets, that He had sent to prepare the coming of Jesus. And finally when Jesus, God Himself came to his beloved, they were so far gone from the truth that they killed their Lord as the ones before.

   "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" -. Matthew 23:37

   An analogy is made between Hosea's experience with Gomer, and the Lord's experience with Israel. 

Hosea was commanded by the LORD to marry a prostitute Her name was Gomer. His life with Gomar would become an object lesson of the deep love of God for His wayward children. His marriage to the unfaithful wife is to be an example of God's relationship with the unfaithful nation of Israel. 

In the first few chapters of this book we alternate between the events in Hosea's message and God's explanation of how those events relate to the nation. She certainly would come to symbolize what Israel had become. 

God breaks Hosea's heart to prepare him for ministry. He learns that his wife is a prostitute. Certainly this broke his heart. And he learns that God's attitude toward His people is heartbreak. He learns how to have God's heart. Gomar bore three children. 

   The first son is named "Jezreel" Which means "God scatters", or "God sows". His name prefigured God's judgment on the ruling house of Israel.

   The daughter is named "Lo-Ruhamah" Which means "no mercy" Her name describes God's attitude toward Israel, though Judah still found grace in God's sight. Some suggest that the daughter and the son to follow were not Hosea's. Note it does not say she bore him (Hosea) a daughter, as before. 

   The second son is named "Lo-Ammi" His name means "not my people" God declares his rejection of Israel. Again, just a reminder of God's disowning them.

   Though cast off, God promises a restoration. Israel's restoration is described as using a wilderness, God will win her back.

God will cure her of using the language of Baal worship. God will establish a covenant of peace and safety, and betroth Israel to Him once again. God will once again bless them, and be merciful to them as His people. 

While there may be references to the restoration from captivity, it also foreshadows the age of the Messiah and His spiritual blessings.   

So what is God's reaction to Israel forgetting Him? 

After describing their sin and bringing them to the wilderness. God is also merciful and now he is enticing them back to Him. 

God uses these wilderness experiences to bring us closer to Himself. Notice in Hosea 2:14 that He leads them into the wilderness or desert.

"Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her." - Hosea 2:14

   When God leads us into the desert, we need to understand He isn't taking good things away from us. 

He is taking away things that we thought were good for us, so that all we will have left is what really is good for us, and so we will depend on Him. Many times in our life God may stripe things of this world away, as to unblind us so we can hopefully see His deep, pure, holy and perfect love. "...for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God..." - Exodus 20:5 He is jealous for you. He wants to win your heart.

   Hosea is charged to love an adulterous woman. Hosea takes her back, though with a period of probation. Symbolizing God's willingness to take Israel back. How does all this we have talked about apply to us? 

Israel was very wicked and evil in their deeds. They totally forsook God. We could compare ourselves to them and think we are not nearly so sinful and wretched. I mean, we certainly don't bow down before baal or offer our bodies for prostitution. 

Maybe we don't worship graven images, but we are all like Gomer the unfaithful wife.

   Hosea symbolizes God. Gomer symbolizes His children. We as Christians do not always stay pure and faithful before the Lord. Every time we sin, we are like the unfaithful wife, participating in other things that trump our desire to be devoted to God. Like a wife has more desire to spend time with other men rather then her husband. It's like the same thing.

So just like Hosea, what did God do for us when we ran away and were unfaithful to Him. In Romans 5:8 it states ."But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Yes, while we were still lost Jesus came seeking for us, like Hosea went out to seek after his wife who had gone astray. Just as Luke 19:10 says. "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."

   And once again, just like Hosea bought Gomar back, Jesus bought us back by sacrificing His body on the cross and shedding His blood for to purchase us as His own. Then rising again three days later! This is the ultimate act of love, showing God's deep and undivided passion to be with His children

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."- John 15:13   

Hosea is one of my favorite characters in the Old Testament because this is the whole message that God was trying to get across to the people through Hosea's life. This was a foreshadowing of how God would redeem His people to make his church the bride of Christ and to spend eternity with Him instead of separation.

 "And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD. Hosea 2:19-20 

   The Bible is the greatest love story ever written! Wouldn't you agree? May God give us all a deeper understanding of His enduring love for us.

Leah Nicolette

Friday, August 10, 2012

First Things First: Making the Most of Your Morning

by David Mathis | August 9, 2012
“Do first things first” is the takeaway from Laura Vanderkam’s new e-book What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. Morning is “prime time for self-improvement,” USA Today reports in reviewing Vanderkam’s work. The article says,
Here are some of the things she says go-getters do before most people finish their first cup of coffee:
  • Exercise. A dawn workout is common among CEOs and other high powered types.
  • Meditate or pray. Monks aren´t the only ones who start the day on a spiritual note.
  • Work, often on personal or long-term projects outside the scope of their daily duties.
  • Fix a family breakfast - sometimes as a substitute for a family dinner - or play with their kids.

The counsel is to tackle the most important things first, “before the demands of the day intrude. Interruptions and emergencies tend to strike later in the day; motivation tends to wilt. And people who start the day with a win can build on the momentum all day long . . . .”
So it seems the old commonsensical proverb holds: Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.

Starting on a Spiritual Note

Family, work, and exercise are all important, but perhaps it’s the mention of meditation andprayer that most distinctively catches the Christian attention. Which raises the question, Vanderkam’s work aside, Is there a Christian way to make the most of your mornings?
While some may think of morning as “prime time for self-improvement,” would the Christian approach be to treat morning as prime time for sanctification — or at least as a spiritual fueling up for the day?

Early in the Morning

The history of the church is filled with men and women who put “first things first” through going Godward to start their day. This shouldn’t be that surprising given that it’s recorded of our great Hero himself that “rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35).
And, of course, his “very early” morning resurrection (Mark 16:2) is pregnant with significance.

Getting Your Soul Happy in God

George Mueller (1805–1898) is remembered for his massive ministry to orphans in England over a century ago. But here’s something else to remember about Mueller. He writes in his autobiography about the life-changing find he made about the power of mornings. His discovery was that 
the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was ... how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man may be nourished ...

For Mueller, this meant that “the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the word of God and to meditation on it, that thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed; and that thus, while meditating, my heart might be brought into experimental communion with the Lord.”

Obtaining Food for the Inner Man

And Mueller gets practical. He says that, after a short prayer, asking for God’s blessing on his time of reading, “the first thing I did . . . was to begin to meditate on the word of God, searching as it were into every verse to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of the public ministry of the word; not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon; but for the sake of obtaining food for my soul.” This is not self-improvement, but feasting one’s soul at the banquet of God.
By meditation, Mueller means “not the simple reading of the word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts.”

A Happy State of Heart

Mueller found the result of such Bible meditation soon became prayer in its varied forms — whether confession, thanksgiving, intercession, or supplication — and “that my inner man almost invariably is almost sensibly nourished and strengthened and that by breakfast time, with rare exceptions, I am in a peaceful if not a happy state of heart.”
In short,
... it is as plain to me as anything that the first thing the child of God has to do morning by morning is obtain food for the inner man. As the outward man is not fit for work for any length of time, except we take food, and as this is one of the first things we do in the morning, so it should be with the inner man. ...

How different when the soul is refreshed and made happy early in the morning, from what it is when, without spiritual preparation, the service, the trials, and the temptations of the day come upon one!

Encouragement and Challenge

Vanderkam’s book and Mueller’s experience should be no small encouragement for those who are naturally morning larks, bouncing out of bed before dawn, ready to face the challenges of the day with their best energies. If this is you, harness it. Make the most of your morning by seeking your soul’s happiness in God. When you think of “doing first things first,” consider going deep in the Scriptures, scouring them for fresh glimpses of Jesus, and daily rehearsing their central message — the gospel — that is always for the Christian “of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3).
For the in-betweeners who can do either late nights or early mornings (but not usually both in the same day!), you have your challenge — with good incentive — for taking intentional steps to seek the Spiritual discipline of getting to bed earlier. A practical key to getting up early, and getting right away to the day’s most important things, is getting to bed early. Which is so much tougher than it sounds. Vanderkam recognizes this is the deal-killer for many. "Going to bed early is not that easy for many people."

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Born Again - Do you know what happened to you ?


by Jon Bloom | August 8, 2012
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God”
(John 3:3).
If you have been born again, the greatest miracle that you can ever experience in this life has happened to you. 

No healing, no deliverance, no prophecy, no Philip-like translation in the spirit (Acts 8:39-40), no George Müller-like financial provision arriving at the exact moment you need it comes close. It’s greater than what Lazarus experienced. What happened to Lazarus was a pointer, a parable for what happened to you.

That’s why when the seventy-two disciples returned from their tours of ministry and excitedly recounted the signs and wonders that occurred, including the commanding of demonic powers, Jesus said, “do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). Why? Because commanding demons can’t touch the joy of receiving everything good forever, which is what the new birth gives you.
Really understanding what being born again means fuels your joy and courage and boldness and your passion to see others receive the same gift.
... Soak in the glories of regeneration. Take an awe-filled dive into the ocean of God’s love for you that caused him to send his Son, Jesus, to die in your place to pay for your sin and then called your name and raisedyou from the spiritually dead and has given you eternal life--which has already begun for you. Immerse yourself in the refreshing and assuring clarity of how the new birth happens and what are the evidences in your life that it has.
  • "O that every believer would know the glory of what has happened to him! Do you know what God has done for you and in you? You were ransomed with the imperishable blood of Christ. You were raised with Christ from the dead to an eternally living hope. You were called from death to life like Lazarus, and you saw Christ for the Treasure that he is. You were born again. You received him and were saved."

(John Piper, in his book Finally Alive) 

Come, and gaze at the glory.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

When a Lover of Good Thinks About Evil

This post is a bit longer, but very very worthwhile reading or listening to !

August 12, 2012 by John Piper | Topic:  Life of the body

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 9 But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.
10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
One of the great blessings of being a Bible-saturated church with a Bible-saturated eldership and a Bible-saturated people is that the strange juxtapositions in the Bible of seemingly contrary emotions and emphases and truths prevent us from becoming a superficial, simplistic, lopsided people.
For example, a superficial, simplistic, lopsided person might watch another person get angry at some sinful attitude he sees in a group, and draw the conclusion: This angry person is not a very compassionate person; he doesn’t have a lot empathy; he’s not able to weep with those who weep. But the instincts of a Bible-saturated person would not draw this conclusion because over the years he has been deepened and broadened in his grasp of the complexity of godliness, by running into so many strange juxtapositions. He has been shaped by texts like Mark 3:5 where it says, “Jesus looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart.” And the superficial, simplistic, lopsided notion that godly anger and godly compassion cannot coexist in the same godly heart has been banished from the Bible-saturated mind forever.
Day after day, week after week, year after year, Bible-saturated minds and hearts are being formed by the hundreds of such deep and wonderful juxtapositions in the Bible. A people are being created whose instincts and inclinations are as complex as the Bible. And whose responses to situations are often as little understood as the Scriptures. Closer and closer to “the mind of Christ.”

Welcome to the Bible

So here we are in today’s text, 2 Timothy 3:1–13. And it is predominantly bleak and ugly. In verses 1–5 there's a list of nineteen ugly characteristics of evil people. Then in verses 6–9 there's a description of how they creep into houses and take women captive; and a glimpse into history and how this has been going on for centuries. And then in verses 10–13 there's a description of what it costs those who try to live a godly life in such a culture.
Nineteen specific descriptions of moral ugliness! And there's an even longer list in Romans 1:29–31. Is this the same Paul who said in Philippians 4:8, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Does the juxtaposition of “Think about what is pure,” and a list of nineteen human impurities jar your mind?
Welcome to the Bible. Welcome real life. Welcome to the complexities of holiness. Welcome to truth and to the mind of God. The Bible-saturated mind loves to linger long and mainly on the beauties of holiness, and the Bible-saturated mind knows that the ugliness of evil is real (in us and in the world) and we dare not be ignorant of it.

We Need to Know About Evil

Paul begins the chapter, “Understand this . . .” Or literally: “Know this . . .” Here is something beauty-loving people need to know. We need to know about evil. And I see at least six things about evil that we need to know in verses 1–13.
  • The times of evil.
  • The severity of evil.
  • The specifics of evil.
  • The creep of evil.
  • The limit of evil.
  • The alternative to evil.

1. The times of evil (verse 1)

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self. . . . etc.”
In the mind of Paul the last days bring an intensification of evil. In 1 Timothy he says, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.” (1 Timothy 4:1). The apostle Peter says, “Scoffers will come in the last days” (2 Peter 3:3). Jude says, “In thelast time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions” (Jude 1:18).
And all the writers of the New Testament would agree that the “last days,” the “later times,” the “last time,” began with the coming of the Messiah, Jesus into the world. That was the arrival of the end, the beginning of the end, the last chapter of world history before the consummation of Christ’s kingdom. 1 John 2:18: “Children, it is the last hour.”Hebrews 1:2, “In these last days God has spoken to us by his Son.” 1 Peter 1:20: “Christ was made manifest in the last times for your sake”.
So we are living in the last days. We have been since Christ came. The evils that characterize the last days burst forth again and again in history. And as we come to the end of the end — the return of Christ — we may expect that there will be the greatest intensification of all.
This will happen while the faithful remnant of God’s people experience white-hot devotion to Jesus Christ and a willingness for martyrdom (Matthew 24:12–14). Which means that we must be very careful not to assume that the degeneration of culture at the end of the age is owing to the failure of the church to be holy. There is no promise in the Bible that the holiness of the church will guarantee the transformation of culture.
And we must also be careful not to assume that our day is the last of the last days. It may be that between now and the end of the end God plans for another great revival in the church and another great awakening in the world. I think we should pray and evangelize to that end. It is not our calling to agree with the darkness, but to preach the gospel of light.

2. The severity of evil (verse 1)

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.”
“Difficulty” is a mild translation. The word is used in one other place in the New Testament, namely, Matthew 8:28 in reference to the demoniacs of Gadara: “Two demon-possessed men met Jesus, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way.” “Fierce.” That is the word used in 2 Timothy 3:1, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come fierce seasons.”
In other words, the evil will not simply be ugly to watch, and grievous to the godly mind, it will be at times violent, fierce. Verbally fierce and physically fierce. We will see this in the list that follows.
Which means that the invincible joy we know as believers because of the work of Christ and our new, secure relation to God our Father, does not depend on the absence of moral ugliness or the absence of physical danger. We need not and we must not let the immorality and horrors of the last days dampen our joy in Jesus. This is one of those strange, deep complexities of Christian holiness. O how easy it is to slip into a morose pity-party that our little heaven on earth is becoming a hell! We were never promised that earth would be our heaven before Christ returns. And you are preparing for yourself a great disappointment if you try to make it so.  
“We rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2). “In this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” — joyful patience (Romans 8:24–25). “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8).
3. The specifics of evil (verses 2–5)
In verses 2–5 Paul lists 19 examples of the kind of evil people who will populate the last times — the now times — and worse at the end of the end. I’m going to do what I encourage you to do. I’m going to read the list and add my brief description of what I think each one means. The aim of a list like this is not to grovel in evil or gloat over others or savor indictments. The aim is to understand the untrue and varieties of evil and to spot these things in ourselves and others with a view to overcoming them and avoiding them.
  • Verse 2: “For people will be lovers of self (narcissistic),
  • lovers of money (materialistic),
  • proud (loving to draw attention to their accomplishments),
  • arrogant (with an inflated view of self),
  • abusive (wanting to be verbally hurtful),
  • disobedient to their parents (having a rebellious spirit),
  • ungrateful (assuming that they have a right to the things they get),
  • unholy (indifferent to the attitudes and acts that reflect the value of Jesus),
  • heartless (unable to sympathize or empathize),
  • unappeasable (unwilling to forgive),
  • slanderous (devilishly distorting what other say and do),
  • without self-control (a slave to their appetites),
  • brutal (dead to all tenderness),
  • not loving good (unable to see and savor moral beauty),
  • treacherous (breaking promises for their own advantage),
  • reckless  (craving admiration for taking risks),
  • swollen with conceit (blind to the ugliness of self-preoccupation and the beauty of admiring others),
  • lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (finding more satisfaction in physical titillation than in the divine admiration),
  • having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power (using religion for personal gain without treasuring Christ above all).” (2 Timothy 3:2–5).
You can tell that Paul knows he is in the last days because he begins in verse 1–2  by saying that these are the kinds of people that come in the last days, and he ends the list in verse 5 by saying to Timothy, “Avoid such people.” They are there. Not just coming, but present. And so they are today.
When he says “Avoid them,” he doesn’t mean never talk to them. In 2 Timothy 4:5 he tells Timothy “Do the work of an evangelist.” Talk to unbelievers. Instead he means: Don’t hang out with them month after month as though they're not in trouble.
But the sheer fact that Paul gives such a long list of evils shows that he had seen a lot of evil in his day. And he had thought a lot about the way sin ravages human life. You will see a lot, too. Think deeply about what you see. Grieve. Pray. Care. Cherish the gospel that saves you and speak it to the perishing. And pursue holiness which pleases the Lord.

4. The creep of evil (verses 6–7)

“Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.”
The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference in Orlando last June was historic for several reasons: Reformed, complementarian, and focused on God, not women’s issues. In addition to this, 4,000 women gathered from around the world. One of the reasons I was thrilled to be a part of it is precisely because of verses 6 and 7. It is not God’s will that women be weak in their discernment, burdened with sin, and led astray by passions. It is not God’s will that women be vulnerable to creeping moral and theological error from those who possess a form of godliness and deny the power of it.
This vulnerability may have been the case in Timothy’s setting. But the point of this text is not to encourage it. The point is that evil is insidious. It creeps toward the weak: weak women, weak men, weak children. And the task of the church is to make women and men and children mighty in the word of God. Saturated with the word of God. So that women — and men — can stand against the wiles of the devil. So that women — and men — will not be dabblers who are always sampling new trends and never landing on anything firm.
So let it be said loud and clear that the vision of biblical complementarity between men and women is that both be deeply and solidly grounded in Bible and doctrine. You will know the truth, women — and men — and the truth will set you free — free from the weakness of ignorance (through the Bible), free from the burden of sin (through the gospel), and free from the power of passion (through the Holy Spirit).

5. The limit of evil (verses 8–9)

“Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.”
I think what this means is that those who are true Christians will not be taken in by these creeping opponents of the truth for very long. Jannes and Jambres are the traditional names of the magicians who opposed Moses with their ability to do counter miracles (Exodus 7:11). But you recall that three miracles into the ten their power gave out  (Exodus 8:189:11). And they were exposed.
That is what Paul has in mind here. These creeping opponents of the truth may not get spotted for what they are right away. Remember they have "an appearance of godliness." But they will be spotted. God knows those who are his. And he will protect his sheep.

6. The alternative to evil (verses 10–13)

You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
The alternative to evil is godly suffering, and final deliverance. You have seen my persecutions and my sufferings, Timothy (verse 11). I am telling you, Timothy, that with this kind of evil in the world that we’ve been talking about, anyone — not just me — who takes a stand for godliness and who seeks to live out a life of positive purity and holiness and love which rescues the perishing — that person will be persecuted. Verse 12: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” So don’t think it strange. Know it is coming. And remember “my patience, my love, my steadfastness,” and imitate me.
The power to do that will come from the confidence of your blood-bought deliverance from evil — especially your final deliverance. Verse 11 (at the end): “. . . which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.” Paul didn’t mean that the Lord keeps us from persecution and suffering. He was stoned so severely in Lystra they thought he was dead (Acts 14:19). But does he mean: Ah yes, but I am still alive? He rescued my life.
Maybe. But I doubt it. I think he means, the Lord stood by me. Never forsook me. He preserved my faith so that I am still walking with him and still on the path to his heavenly kingdom. And by his grace I will make it. The reason I think this is because of what he says at the end of this letter (2 Timothy 4:17–18):
But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (2 Timothy 4:17–18).
The final rescue Paul has in mind is entering the heavenly kingdom. When he is finally killed he will be rescued. This is the great and final alternative to evil. It may cost you much to stand against the evil of the last days. But I promise you, by the authority of God’s word, if you stand by faith in your crucified and risen Savior you will be delivered and it will be infinitely worth it. Let verse 18 of chapter 4 be the flag that waves over all your affliction: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.” And we will say with great joy, "Good-bye evil, forever."