1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.

People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,

without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,

treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—

having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5

When we think of the end times we think of wars, famines, earthquakes, floods, blood moons and environmental disasters but instead of all that Paul focuses upon the condition of the heart.

Something else that we should notice about these verses is that they are addressed to us Christians. “Having a form of godliness but denying its power,” relates to believers and not to non-believers who deny God in the first place.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about these texts the last few days and, if I am honest with you, I don’t like what they are speaking to me. When I read these verses over and really take to heart what they are saying I am ashamed of myself.

Each week I have the privilege of leading out on a couple of Bible studies with a bunch of amazing people. I believe every word that I teach, I pray about the study and do hours of prep time so that I can present the material in the best possible manner. I believe I understand that a person needs to know Jesus personally instead just about Jesus. And it is here that God began to speak to me lately.

There are going to be terrible times in the last days of this earth because society is moving further and further away from God. And what is scary, according to these verses in 2nd Timothy, is that we Christians are going to be caught up in the same culture and be no different spiritually and motivationally from our neighbors. When Jesus returns He is going to find millions and millions of His professed followers caught up in the pursuit of pleasure, wealth, sex and recognition instead of following Him with all their hearts.

Look at verse 2, “people will be lovers of themselves,” and ask yourself is this not the motivating factor that moves our culture even now. People are so desperate for recognition that they spend countless hours on Facebook looking at or posting tidbits about themselves and filling their “wall” with “selfies.”

But for all the waste of time, things like Facebook are harmless in light of what it really means to love us above everyone else including God. Since childhood we have grown up being reminded that we must have a good self-esteem and be proud of our accomplishments and ourselves. Of course it is important to have self-esteem, but this is not what Paul is talking about when he addresses Timothy, his young co-worker.

Everything that follows in 2nd Timothy 3:1-5 hinges upon our self-centeredness and egotism. Paul knows that our hearts long for recognition, success and importance. He knows that when we give in to self-love above all else in life we are in trouble spiritually, morally and ethically.

To be a lover of self is to make sure you are always first in everything you do. All vacations have to be planned around your wants and meals revolve around what you want to eat regardless of what anyone else in the family may think. To be a lover of self is to put your desires, dreams and plans first. But it is even more than that, it means that not only your family, your friends and your obligations are subordinate to your wishes, but so is God.

Lovers of self never sacrifice time, energy, money or resources for the gospel because those are all things that can be horded for their own pleasure and greed. Verse 4 reminds Timothy that men who are lovers of self are really “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”

Think about that for a moment. Does your pleasure come before your relationship to Jesus? Do your own desires override your calling to be a disciple of Christ?

I heard a pastor say that he pastor’s a church of four thousand and the church has a budget of 6 million dollars and they baptized 100 people the last year he was there. He went on to say if a company had a sales force of 4000 and spent six million dollars on that force and they only brought in 100 customers that year they would be considered a major failure. Did you know that it takes 100 Christians in North America to see 1 new Christian baptized each year? Why? Because the majority of us are busy being lovers of self and all that encompasses.

What would happen if a half-dozen or a dozen of us became serious about Jesus and formed small groups that met in the community and had only one goal and that was to be closer to Jesus. Could you imagine a group of people who really loved each other and really loved Jesus?

Like I’ve said I’ve been thinking about this the last little while and I feel the Holy Spirit speaking to me that things need to change in my heart. Not only do I need to know the word of God and let it live in me but also I need to know Jesus much more intimately and allow Him to dwell within me.

What is exciting for me is that I know I am under conviction about this because of the work of the Holy Spirit. On one hand I feel sad that I haven’t let Jesus come into my life with power years ago, but on the other hand I am filled with joy and expectation because the Spirit is moving in my life. Do you understand what I’m saying?  I know many of you are longing for that deeper relationship with God where the Spirit leads and fills your life with purpose and direction.

I do not want to play at being a Christian. I want my life to really matter for Jesus. And I know with all my heart that I don’t want to be, “a lover of self.” But, if you are anything like me you know it’s not easy to break free from putting your own interests in the forefront of what we do.

I don’t want you to get discouraged in this series I’m going to do on these five verses in 2Timothy 3, but instead I want you to come along for the ride with me as we explore a bit of the darker side of our personalities and motivations. But my prayer is that when we come out the other side at least some of us will be willing to put Jesus first regardless of what He expects of us.

Remember, we are saved by grace and not by works, striving or trying harder. Putting Jesus first in our life is a simple response of love for Him and others because of His love for us. Putting Jesus first in our life is to be transformed from selfishness to accepting our need of Jesus.

So invite a friend to read along with us over the next few posts as we examine God’s invitation to put Him first as we enter into these last days.

* Please remember to pray for the Christians who are suffering persecution for their faith in many countries around the world. There is a great evil settling on this earth and we must be vigilant in our prayers and stay close to Christ. Our hope is in Christ and he is faithful to his people. Please take the time to read about what is taking place in the world around us at  http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet…