“For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”
2 Timothy 3:2-5
In this passage Paul writes a very strong warning to Timothy about what can be accurately summed up as “fake Christians.” He says these people will be selfish and greedy and prideful and angry and entitled and merciless and violent and all kinds of other awful things. The kind of people Paul is describing here may not sound like any kind of Christian, fake or not. Unfortunately though, these very people can be found in every church. They’re wolves in sheep’s clothing. They take on the appearance of godliness, but they deny its power. What does that mean?
This kind of person may pretend (and maybe even believes) that they’re holier than they really are, and probably holier than everyone else around too. They may follow normal Christian “rules” well enough to be noticed, but only on a shallow level. Behind closed doors they tear down brothers and sisters with their gossip, they cause divisions in the church, they take advantage of vulnerable people, they hold grudges, they seek authority and lord it over others, and worst of all, many will believe that they are true Christians. Paul says that even if they look like Christians on the outside, they aren’t. They take on the name of “Christian” and follow enough rules to look good, but in the end they don’t actually want anything to do with the real power of Christ. These people must be avoided at all costs.
Paul says we ought to have nothing to do with these people, the modern-day Pharisees in our churches who talk the talk but worship only themselves. We cannot tolerate it. Hypocrisy and self-righteousness have become rampant in modern Christianity. It’s exactly what Paul warned us of. It is now our duty as true Christians to speak the truth to such people, rebuke them, and if nothing changes, have nothing further to do with them. We must strive to be perfect as Christ is perfect, but we must also be humble as Christ is humble. Let us be united by the love of Christ, not divided by false teachers. Let us have a form of godliness, but never deny its power. Let us embrace the power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised to us.
I pray that you will help us to identify these false believers in our lives and in our churches. Help us to speak the truth to them in love, help them to repent, and let them be made new by Jesus. However, if they will not, give us the strength to have nothing to do with those who deny the power of your Spirit. Give us the humility and discernment to find where these characteristics lie in our own hearts also that we may confess, repent, and be redeemed as well.
In Jesus’ Name,