Let’s get started today with our teaching about a deceitful heart by using II Timothy 3:1-4 as our guideline.
What we are going to do now is look at each of these defective qualities, at least in an overview, so that we can understand them a little bit better, and then maybe use them for continued self-examination as we go through the Days of Unleavened Bread and beyond. Nineteen characteristics are given in II Timothy 3:1-4. The very first defective characteristic or quality mentioned for the perilous last days is that men shall be “lovers of their own selves.” This is the heart’s primary characteristic.
LOVERS OF THEIR OWN SELVES:
One of the problems with “being lovers of their own selves” is that the perception of the self-absorbed is narrow and limiting. Making judgments of those people tends to be harsh. Included within this is narcissism. Narcissism is an over-riding preoccupation with the self that warps one’s sense of value so that everything in life is judged according to feelings. One of the outstanding bad characteristics of this is that it produces a strong drive to control and to seeking praise and flatteries.
You have read stories about “Sleeping With the Enemy.” You have read stores of other people who maybe did not do quite the same thing, but boy! they had a strong drive in them to control. Those people are narcissistic. They want everything, to an extreme, according to their pleasure. Human nature is self-absorbed and narcissistic to such a degree that it is hard for us to imagine, and is indeed embarrassing.
It seems to be that the psychologists have arranged this in three stages. First, human nature is just naturally self-centered. That is the least dangerous of the three. Then they use the term “self-absorbed,” which notches things up a bit. There the self-centeredness is taken a degree or two higher with more intensity, more demanding than just merely being self-centered. In many cases, self-centeredness can be fairly easily controlled by comparison to self-absorption. But the worst stage of all is narcissism. There is such a preoccupation with the self that these people are mentally ill.
Regarding the statement in verse 2—”lovers of their own selves”—William Barklay says, “Love of self is the basic sin from which all others flow. The moment a man makes his own will the center of life, divine and human relationships are destroyed. Obedience to God and charity to men both become impossible. The essence of Christianity is not the enthronement, but the obliteration of self.”
The Interpreters Commentary agrees by stating the following on the same verse: “Self-love is the fundamental sin and source of all others because it substitutes sinful man for God. The truly godly man puts God at the center of his life.”
The Expositors Bible Commentary states something similar in Volume 8, Page 464: “Love in the truest sense demands abandonment of self to God, and God alone is the adequate incentive for such abandonment.”
I do not know whether you caught it, but all three of these statements imply that self-love is the source of idolatry. It is the generator that produces idolatry, because the heart then pushes man to consider himself more important than God, and it will seek its gratification rather than give God what pleases Him.
All the rest of these evil qualities are merely acts of the way the love of self is driving the person to express himself. God allows us to love ourselves, but if it is permitted to drift into extremes, it becomes the source of all forms of mental illness. Now God, on the other hand, gives us the spirit of a sound mind—a mind that is not sick, and we will get to that just a little bit later.
As we proceed through this listing, I want you all to notice the focus on self-gratification, covetousness, pride, impatience, and sheer foolishness, regardless of the circumstance in which they might occur. I also want you to notice that you will not see in this list murder, adultery, fornication, and things of that nature. Do you know why not? This actually reinforces the fact that this was written really to warn the church about itself, as well as warning the church about the world. Paul says in I Corinthians 6 that some of us were those things, but by the time he wrote this, it became very apparent that those big obvious expressions of human nature like murder, fornication, adultery, and so forth, were behind. The people were controlling those things. What is important is that we understand what was generating those kinds of things. While those things may not be in the same class as murder, fornication, adultery, and whatever, they are still nonetheless sin.
I do not know exactly what your Bible says, but the first expression is “the love of money” and what it will buy. I do not mean that these things are necessarily in order of importance. They were probably things that just came to Paul’s mind.
The first expression after “the love of self” is “avariciousness”—the more modern term. This is the drive to accumulate. Synonyms might be covetous, rapacious, greedy. It is interesting that one of the cynical descriptions of this age is that when life on earth is all over, everything blows up, and the one with the most toys wins. If you want evidence, consider the horrific indebtedness of the average American and his national government.
At times indebtedness occurs through no personal fault, but mostly it is evidence of covetousness, avariciousness—the desire to have something and gratify one’s desires before one actually has the money to pay for it. A significant effect of greed is that these people lose the sense of proportion as to what is truly important in life and end up trampling all over relationships in order to satisfy their desires, and if taken to an extreme, they will sell their soul for gold.
This characteristic is a natural outgrowth of one centering his thoughts on himself, because “a lover of self” knows no one better. The Greek word is normally translated into the word “boasting” and means “over-swollen.” They are puffed up about themselves. In the book of Jude, it is translated as “great swelling words” in talking about the False Prophet. Thus these people will work to turn every conversation to eventually focus on themselves, their experiences, their knowledge, and what they have accumulated in whatever area. But it does not stop there, because people of this nature are driven to talk about anything that has them as its focus.
Now do not misunderstand. God allows us to love ourselves. Self-concern is not unimportant, but it becomes a sin when allowed to so focus on the self that it is oblivious to the needs of others. In one commentary I looked into (I believe it was the Interpreters’) the guy who wrote the article said, “These people do not even see the other person’s need. It never even comes to mind.”
These people will take every opportunity to show themselves above others. When expressed in this manner, it indicates a degree of arrogance. It is not merely “puffed up” in feeling about the self as better than others, but it carries this thought out with an aggressiveness moved to actually put the other person down. Do you know how it appears in the application? It appears as sarcasm about somebody else’s characteristics, whether it happens to be their looks, the way they dress, or the inflections in their voices, or whatever. Vanity drives human nature.
Many commentators feel that pride is the father of all other sins, and so the proud person is the kind of person that God, through James and the book of Proverbs, says He resists. It is said in such a way that He cannot stand them. This is really a bad sin. He cannot stand their self-centeredness. Where is the humility? So in terms of a relationship with God, the proud person resists subjecting himself to God and to other humans. And human nature attempts, in varying degrees of intensity, to control every situation in its favor. This is especially noticeable in relationships. The proud want to be served.
Blasphemy is a natural outgrowth of pride because those who are blasphemous cannot seriously consider that others may be their equal, or better. This specific word means that in their speech they are insulting to God and to fellowman. Most of us tend to think of this blasphemy in terms of taking God’s name in vain. However, the term is not restricted to God. Included in this is the making of sarcastic remarks, which I mentioned before. They are put-downs of others’ characteristics and conduct that one might find beneath them as something that should be made light of.
DISOBEDIENT TO PARENTS:
That one is pretty obvious. I will not go into that at all, because I may mention portions of this later on.
UNTHANKFUL (or Ingratitude):
Probably the Old Testament’s outstanding example of ingratitude is expressed in Ezekiel 16 in the story of how God found Israel as an abandoned waif. He cleaned her up. He gave her wealth. He clothed her. He gave her food, and so forth. He gave her all the good things of life, and what did she do? Before the chapter was over, she turned on Him in ingratitude and prostituted herself to anybody who came along.
What a hard heart we have in our failure to recognize that every blessing, every blessing of the air we breathe, is a gift from God because He manages His creation. That is what it says in Hebrews 1, that everything is held up by the word of His power.
God freed Israel from Egypt. They came out with a high hand exalting in their liberty, but even before they got to Mount Sinai, Israel had forgotten and wanted to go back to their bondage in Egypt. That is hard to reconcile, even to intelligence.
One of the outstanding examples of ingratitude in the New Testament occurred when Jesus healed the ten lepers, but only one of them turned and came back and thanked Him. Here this horrible disease disfigured them and made them look hardly human any longer because fingers fell off, toes fell off, maybe whole hands fell off, a nose fell off, or maybe pieces of an ear or whatever fell off. Whatever this disease was, it just left them completely disfigured, and Jesus made them whole in the blink of an eye. But that is the way the heart is. It is nowhere near as appreciative as it needs to be.
Ingratitude indicates the failure of one to recognize indebtedness to God and other people who have made possible what one has. It too is an expression of one’s pride—so proud and arrogant that they think they did it all themselves and that they owe others nothing.
WITHOUT NATURAL AFFECTION:
This term “without natural affection” is rather interesting, but it is pretty much a synonym of our English word “indecent; shameless.” This phrase indicates someone who has no respect for common norms and traditions within a culture. It includes people who cannot speak the King’s English, but they know every foul swear word in several languages, and that is used indiscriminately.
When walking through a crowed mall you can hear people swearing in different languages as well as English. They knew them all, but that is the way the human heart is. It is indecent. But it spreads out from that because it includes the way one dresses in public by exposing too much of one’s body. It includes pornography and sexual abuses even to one’s own children. What a sin that is becoming today.
These are people who smoke in non-smoking areas in a public restaurant or become out of order at some public gathering. These are people who flaunt commonly-accepted rules and family traditions. Even normal family love is dissipated in them. The family means almost nothing to those without natural affection. They will even cast aside normal pleasures to involve themselves in perversions because they cannot get enough enjoyment from what is within the bounds of decency.
A better fit is the English word “implacable” in today’s use of the term. It indicates a person who is not easily calmed down, the result being that he is relentless, unforgiving, inflexible, and irreconcilable—insisting that he is right and that there is no other way of looking at things. The fruit of this is divorce and the breaking of other kinds of covenants.
This is interesting because the Greek word is “diablos“—Devil. These people are slanderers—people who deliberately set out to destroy the reputation of others. Slandering is most commonly done through gossiping. The emphasis in the word is on the deliberateness of the operation, not in the quality of the information. The cure for that is to think before you speak.
We know what incontinence is applied to. It might be old people. Little babies are incontinent. They do not care where they go. But incontinence indicates somebody who is without self-control, which is a lot more serious. They are irascible (prone to outbursts; easily angered). They are people who cannot restrain themselves. James says that the religion of a person who cannot bridle his tongue or control his temper is an empty pretense. So these are people who let their temper run wild. These people are addicted to an evil trait that injures both themselves and others.
Now, this you have got to get. The emphasis in this word is on addiction. This sin reaches out to include things such as over-eating, alcoholism, and other forms of drugs, and even reaches out to include such things as nymphomania. In that case, a person’s sexual drive is beyond control. There is no love in it. It is just like he is a dog or a cat, and insatiable. Incontinence has serious consequences.
FIERCE: (or as the King James says, “Despisers of those that are good“)
These are people who have lost the distinction regarding things of quality. In other words, any old thing will do rather than striving to seek the best in friends, in quality of life, in quality of conduct, in language, in entertainment, and in education. These people consistently downgrade everything and always sink to the bottom. They do not upgrade themselves. They do not upgrade their companionships. They seek out fools rather than the wise. They are despisers of those things that are good.
Traitors are those who are treacherous. They cannot be trusted to keep their word or a friendship for that matter. They sell out their country for power and money.
Heady indicates people who are reckless in word and action. It indicates people who are driven by passion, by impulse, and the thrill of the moment. They are not known for considering the consequences of their actions. They just do it, whatever it is.
High-minded means swell-headed; supremely self-confidence filled with conceit, filled with their own self-importance (politicians). They very much lack humility and fail to even consider their faults and actual qualifications. They just push themselves in.
LOVERS OF PLEASURES MORE THAN LOVERS OF GOD:
Verse 4 brings us back to where we started because this is basically a rephrasing of “lovers of self,” but it is a little bit more specific.
“Pleasures” does not directly refer to always seeking entertainment, though it touches on that concept. It is evident from the word though that entertainment plays a large part in what occupies peoples’ time. Pleasures refer to whatever concerns the self. It could be a person’s business. That is interesting to think about because men have a weakness of loving their work more than anything else. Is it not interesting that in the book of Ephesians God has to command men to love their wives? If there were not something interfering in the man’s mind with loving his wife, God would never have to say that, but He knows that men can get easily jerked off to the side with their work.
Men have a propensity to love work. It makes them feel as though they are accomplishing something. So God says to a man, “Hey! Love your wife. She is more important than that job.” That is included within this “lovers of pleasures.” “Pleasure” indicates that which the person holds important in his mind. It could be something like playing golf. It could be studying some subject. It can be anything that has caught the person’s interest. Thus the hard part to control is that this person’s time is given to his interest rather than to God. The time is not rightly divided in a way that will please God. You might notice I used the term “rather than.” It is interesting that right in the margin of my Bible it says “rather than.”
In the New Testament Commentary by Hendrickson and Kistermaker, they strongly insist that the verse should be understood “lovers of pleasures rather than God,” not “more than God” as the King James Version translators originally show it. Now, why? Again, Hendrickson and Kistermaker say it is because Paul is actually not saying denying in the sense that it is something in process, but that they do not love God at all! God has been pushed out completely.
David backs this up in Psalm 10:4 when he says of the unconverted, “God is not in their thoughts.” He means, “AT ALL!” God is not in their thoughts for conforming to His purpose. They might think of God once in a while, but not for conforming to His purpose, and so these lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God are unlike Jesus who always did what pleases God.
It is interesting the Kistermaker and Hendrickson stated in that commentary that these people had infiltrated the church. I think all of you understand that as the first-century church went along and aged, they were invaded by Gnostics, and those people were attending right along with the truly converted Christians, but they had their own ideas about God that were not scripturally correct, but they were there.
I spent a little bit of time on this last one. I might not have done as good a job of expounding on it as I would have liked, but this one we need to be especially concerned about because of the time we are living in. I want you to turn to Revelation 3:14-18
And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write: These things says the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.
The “faithful and true witness” is a prelude to the testimony that He is now going to give to these Laodiceans about their status before Him.
Revelation 3:15-18 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot: I would that you were cold or hot. So then because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth. Because you say, I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that you are wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel you to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich: and white raiment, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness does not appear; and anoint your eyes with eyesalve, that you may see.
What we have here is a vivid description of a people who are in the church in terms of actually having been regenerated by God’s Spirit, but who are in the process of losing their way. They have not lost it completely yet, but they are still in the church. They are still converted, or Christ would not be saying what He is to those people. Their conduct and attitude is not something that they have no power over, because they are converted, or Christ would not have ordered them to repent.
Consider this: Christ does not give people impossible tasks to accomplish. In fact, in I Corinthians 10:13 He promises to always provide a way of escape. The stark reality is that what they are doing in their life is giving testimony of their lack of interest in Christ. Mark that well. What is happening is that the deceitful heart is regaining the upper hand it had before conversion, and it is influencing these people back to a life of self-absorption.
Now notice again what the description says. Christ now represents all of the elements of God’s purpose being worked out in their lives, but the description is showing the deceitful heart is working, and these people are rejecting Christ by saying by their conduct—by the way, they are living—that they no longer need what He has to offer because they already, in their own self-estimation, have enough. “I am rich, and increased with goods.” They consider themselves spiritually rich, and so they have turned life’s attention away from Christ and back to what the deceitful heart feels more comfortable with.
The truly tragic thing here is that they are in the church. Every relationship is a two-way street. Every relationship requires sacrifice, but the carnal heart has convinced these Laodiceans that Christ has no more to offer them and is turning their time and attention back to its own self-centered interest. They are lovers of pleasure; not necessarily entertainment. Pleasure simply refers to one’s own interests rather than lovers of God.
I just mentioned that every relationship requires sacrifice for it to be successful, and we are involved in a relationship.
I hope this teaching, so far, has been a benefit and a blessing. Sometimes facing the truths about one’s self can be hard but self-examination can and should be the start of the cleansing we all need. I pray what you learn her doesn’t bring fear because it’s not meant to do that, trust me, the answer is yet to come… The truth will set you free …
Our next teaching will start with II Timothy 1:7-8, See ya later!
My Prayer For you:
What a responsibility and privilege you have given me to pass on to my brothers and sisters this message. We all need this teaching and I pray it penetrates to the deepest part of the soul.
We ask your forgiveness Father and ask for strength to follow your commandments for our lives.
We know that only Jesus was perfect but through Him, we can be washed as white as snow and someday join Him in Heaven. We know only through His death and resurrection did any of this become possible.
We give you all the praise and glory and thank you for our breath and being.
Lord, we ask for wisdom for our president in all the decisions he makes for our country, and day by day strengthen his faith in You.
I ask in Jesus’s name, healing for our land, and an end to this virus blanketing this world.
We asked these needs the precious name of Jesus