Lately, my son has been infatuated
with a show on the Travel Channel called “Gem Hunt.” In the show, the main
character, Ron LeBlanc, is traveling around the world to remote areas in
search of precious gems. Often, he’ll show up in a village and people from all
over will bring him colored rocks for him to buy. His problem is that among the
very valuable, pure gemstones are common worthless stones, impure stones, and
synthetic stones made to imitate the real thing.
One of the fascinating parts of
the show is watching him try to decipher the real deal, the pure, valuable
gemstones from the rest. Sometimes he looks really carefully at the surface,
other times he’ll shine a light through it, and once I watched him break off a
piece and try to burn it – sniffing to see if plastic had been added to make it
look better than it really was.
He does all this because pure gemstones have great value, but anything less
loses most of its value. A fake stone or a common stone may still look nice on
the outside, but it lacks the purity that makes it valuable on the world
We all understand that pure is the best. 100% pure Florida orange juice is
so much better than any “made from concentrate” stuff. It’s the same with cheese – I
love cheddar cheese, but on the shelves I see things like Velveta that the Food
and Drug Administration classifies as pasteurized process cheese spread. No thank
The Church Today
The same can be said of many churches in America today – they lack the purity
that’s supposed to be associated with a church. They teach things that stretch
the meaning of what most people for the past 2000 years have understood. They
focus on their reputation rather than on God’s reputation. Or they fight over
all sorts of minute details of the faith, failing to put their attention on the
main thing. The simple purity of the Gospel message they are supposed to preach
is muddled into a pasteurized process-Christianity spread that isn’t appealing
And it’s not just church leaders or church structures that are amiss. It’s the
people inside. Countless churches are filled with people who live lives
identical to those who never go to church. Many nominal Christians have a faith that couldn’t persuade anybody
that what they believe is actually believable.
So, the watching world sees our impure churches filled with impure people
and it’s no wonder that they are telling us, “No thank you.”
In saying this, I’m not picking on our church, or the current state of the
church in America. What I’m describing has been the state of the church for a
long, long time. In fact, when we look at Paul’s letter to Timothy, we see him
describing to Timothy the impurity that needs to be purged from the church way
back then. It just so happens that Paul’s words are as appropriate for us today
as they were for Timothy 2000 years ago.
From 2 Timothy 2:14 to 3:9 Paul is really describing to Timothy all the impurities in
the church that need to be avoided or removed. He breaks the impurities up into 2
categories – Impure Doctrine and Impure Lifestyle.
From 2 Timothy 2:14 to 26 Paul is focusing on how Timothy needs to address the false
teachers who are coming into the church and ruining the purity of the
Gospel message of Jesus. He says they are “quarreling about words,” they have
“departed from the truth,” and have even “destroyed the faith of some.” His
command for Timothy is to “avoid stupid arguments” and “gently instruct”
opponents, so that they might come to their senses. In essence, he is telling
Timothy that pure faith requires pure doctrine in the church.
Then in 2 Timothy 3:1-9, Paul focuses on the impure lifestyle of people in the
church. He lists 19 negative traits to describe the impurity in the church that
is incompatible with the life of a Christ follower.
And he continues by saying how people with this impure faith will actually
infect others with their evil.
Timothy must stand up for the
Pure Faith, both doctrine and lifestyle, because the impure faith is
infiltrating the church and making it less valuable, less appealing to the God
of Holiness and to the watching world.
Today I want to look specifically at the 19 impurities listed in 2 Timothy
3:1-5. I want us to think about how we might have allowed these impurities into
our own lives and how to instead live out a Pure Faith.
2 Timothy 3:1-5
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. Because of this, have nothing to do with them.
Let us look at
this passage piece by piece.
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days This is a major
theme all through the New Testament and it refers to all time from Jesus’
resurrection until when he comes back. It refers to both the time Paul wrote
this letter to Timothy and to TODAY.
People will be The people Paul is writing about are people in the church.
This isn’t talking about all the “heathens” outside the church. Paul is warning
Timothy about the behaviors of people who call themselves Christians. Jesus
never condemned the sinners with harsh words and lots of rules – he did that to
the Pharisees – the leaders in the temple system. Paul is basically doing the
same thing here.
As Christians, we need to understand that sinners will sin. It’s
not our job to condemn them. But when people confessing to know Jesus sin
without hesitation, then that’s something we can address.
The list of impurities begins in verse two. People will be . . .
lovers of themselves When I read this statement, its hard not to think about
the celebrity culture we have in America – it’s on every magazine rack and on
every TV channel.
lovers of money Lots of people in the church love their stuff. They love
their new cars, their vacation home, their big screen TV, their shoe collection,
you name it; a love of money runs rampant outside the church, but inside as
boastful, proud These people feel better than you AND they are going to
tell you about it! If you’ve ever sat through a dinner with a person like this, you know how bad a combination like this can be!
abusive, disobedient to their parents Hey teens, listen up! Disobedience to
your parents makes the list of impurities in the church. This is a bigger issue
than you might think because it’s a heart issue. It means that in some way, your
heart is impure and corrupt.
ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving A good word for this is
irreconcilable. This is a person who will never allow a broken relationship to be
restored. They have a “once you hurt me, I’m done with you” attitude.
slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,
treacherous These are the people who betray their friends. They do whatever
they need to get ahead, regardless of who it hurts.
rash, conceited Here again, Paul is stating the problems of pride.
lovers of pleasure
rather than lovers of God These are people who are focused on whatever makes
them happy. The irony is that true contentment is only found IN GOD, but
instead of loving the one who brings joy, they are trying to love counterfeit
idols which bring joy for a fleeting moment.
having a form of godliness but denying its power These people are trying to
act like Christians, but they lack the power that comes from actually being a
Christian. Just like Jesus accused the Pharisees, they are trying to clean up
the outside of the cup while the inside of the cup is filthy. They are trying
to do Christian-type things, while their heart is still completely impure and
they lack the power to change things.
And what is the power in view here? It’s
the Holy Spirit.
You see, the Holy Spirit gives us the power to live a life unlike the
descriptions just given. It’s the Holy Spirit who walks with us on our
Christian journey of becoming more like Jesus and convicts us of our sin. He’s
the one who whispers in your ear when you’re doing something you shouldn’t.
Without the Holy Spirit, we would be as stuck in our sin as the Israelites who
were God’s chosen people, but who continually had hard hearts and continually
walked away from God.
So, Paul is saying that there are people in the church who claim to be Christians
but who are not! They don’t have the power of the Holy Spirit inside them, and
that’s why they live impure, sinful, harmful lives.
And because of this, Paul concludes: Have nothing to do with such people.
Wow! That’s a big statement. Why do you think Paul says that Timothy should
basically send these people out from the church?
The next verses answer that
question by essentially saying that these people’s impurities will spread and harm the
I know this last phrase just raised a lot of questions for some of you –
like “are you going to kick me out of church because I’m addicted to shopping
online?” The answer is, maybe! But let me get to that.
First, we need to understand that a list like this is not part of the
check-list to Christianity. A check-list to Christianity does not exist.
Being a Christian does not mean doing good things and avoiding bad things like
the actions on this list. Being a Christian means putting your faith in Jesus
to cleanse you from every bad thing you have ever done and WILL ever do.
a Pure Faith like this means having the Holy Spirit inside you, giving you the
POWER to live a pure life as you walk in step with Him and His leading.
This list is really just a description of what it looks like for a person to
live a life apart from the Holy Spirit. When Paul gives this list, it’s not
meant to be a new law, replacing the law of the Old Testament; its really meant to be a
mirror, challenging us to change so that we look more like Jesus in our
Our Own Impurities
The hard reality as we march through this passage, looking into this mirror, is
that probably every one of us sees at least one of these impurities inside us.
Maybe you wrestle with loving money and the things you own and want to own, or pride – you feel better and smarter than others, or you have no self-control – you do what you want and say what you want whenever you
want, or any of the many other impurities listed.
Truth be told – regardless of which of these sins you wrestle with – they are
all rooted in the same over-arching sin: LOVE OF SELF. That’s the first item on
the list, and I think it’s the key to the list. Every other item is simply a
working out of what it looks like when a person loves themselves more than God
and more than others.
Think about it for a moment: disobedient children disobey because they think they know better than Mom and
Dad and don’t like having to submit to anyone else; ungrateful people don’t thank others for anything because that doesn’t meet
any of their own needs – it’s a selfless act to give thanks, and that’s not
what selfish people do; abusive and brutal people act that way because they want to be in control –
they want the power all for themselves – again, its all about them!
This stands completely opposed to how Paul says a Christian should live
when he wrote in Second Corinthians
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for
all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should
no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised
– 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
We need to recognize that before we met Jesus each of us lived solely for
ourselves. But after meeting Jesus, we have somebody new to love, new to center
our life around – Jesus. Rather than being lovers of ourselves, we are to be
lovers of Jesus. A Pure Faith is one that is totally and completely centered on
Jesus Christ as our primary affection.
But the problem we all recognize inside ourselves is that we still wrestle with
loving ourselves more than Him. That was the problem then and it’s still the
problem each one of us faces.
The question we have to answer is this: are we willing to confront our sin,
name it, and in partnership with the Holy Spirit, work to uproot and eliminate
How you answer that question determines if we will give you the boot! I say
that tongue in cheek, but if we had a person here at Ashworth Road who claimed
to be a Christian, but who exhibited many of these damaging traits and was
harming the health of our church body by hurting some people and by leading
others to sin – we would have to talk to that person. And if that person was
unrepentant and unwilling to even see the sin in their life, we would have to
send that person on their way for the sake of the rest of the body.
situation Paul was addressing with Timothy when he said, “Have nothing to do
with such people.” While it would be incredibly difficult, our job as
pastors is to protect the health and purity of this church and of our people.
On the other hand, I think most of you are willing to do the hard work of
acknowledging where you struggle, allowing the Holy Spirit to work with you to
overcome your sin, and to find yourself at the end of the sometimes painful
process of sanctification looking a lot more like Jesus. If you are a follower
of Jesus – that is the expectation – then each one of us should be regularly
examining our lives for sin, for impurity, and be working to remove it.
That’s why here at Ashworth Road, we value movement. We recognize the
importance of each person here regularly taking steps in their life to be more
like Jesus. Often we talk about movement as steps in the church to greater
involvement, but even more importantly, they are steps toward a deeper relationship
with God – and that means a greater obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit
in our lives.
So here’s what I want you to do today. I encourage each one of you to take your
next step towards Christlikeness by asking the Holy Spirit to search you and
show you where your heart is centered on yourself rather than on Jesus. Then let God change your heart, making it pure.
Purity through the Holy Spirit
It’s an important part of our Christian experience to recognize that we still
struggle with sin, and we always will until we see Jesus face to face. But
because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, we are made pure. It’s
the here but not yet. We are clean, but we need to work in partnership with the
Holy Spirit inside us to continue to purify ourselves from our selfishness.
It’s when we follow that pattern of relying on the Holy Spirit to convict us of
our sin, we confess our sin to God, we repent and turn away from our sin and
stop doing it – that’s what it looks like to live out a Pure Faith.
the Gem Hunters, we need to partner with the Holy Spirit to sort through the
stones of our lives, identifying the pure gem stones from the worthless, impure stones.
And then with the help of the Spirit, we need to discard those impure stones in
our lives, so in the end all we have left in our hands are pure stones – a Pure
I want to close with one final verse out of Psalm 139 – a Psalm written by David,
a man who often admitted his own sin but knew God’s role in purifying him from
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
– Psalm 139:23