The list of godlessness at the beginning 2 Timothy chapter 3 is a frightening passage, mostly because it's not like a lot of the other lists of godlessness we have read other places. This list does not mention the usual suspects: murderers, adulterers and the like. Those lists are easy for us to distance ourselves from because most of us have not committed murder or adultery (though Jesus may have something different to say to that in Matthew 5:21-30). Those lists are easier for one to rationalize around.
No, instead this list mentions many of our daily struggles. Pride. Unforgiveness. Lack of self-control. There is no mention in this list of the "big sins" that most "good people" like to point to when saying "Well, I've never _______".
It is important to note that Paul is not telling us to have nothing to do with those who occasionally boast but then are repentant and trying to change. No, he is speaking here of those who unrepentantly live their lives in this list, consistently and without shame.
I find the first and last items on the list interesting because in many ways thy are the same thing. Paul begins with "lovers of themselves" and ends with "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God". Certainly, loving self almost always results in a love of whatever will be most immediately pleasing to self. Even when self-lovers put off what is most immediately pleasing, it is in order to gain something more pleasing in the long term. And every other thing on this list grows out of this mindset. We are unforgiving because we feel it will be more pleasing to keep a sense of power over those who have wronged us. We are boastful because it pleases our ego. Every item on this list is a temptation because, at some level, it is pleasing to the flesh.
And we contrast all of this with "lovers of God". All of this stands against love for God. Love for God desires to obey him. Love for God repents when we do not obey. And here's the key. Loving God and obeying him is actually more satisfying than loving self and pleasure. God knows that. He designed us to be most satisfied in loving him and obeying him. It is not always immediately pleasurable like loving self, but in the long-term (and often the short term) it is always more satisfying.
What sins have a hold on you because it promises to be more pleasurable? In what ways are you dampening your satisfaction in God and life by a lack of self-control? Community groups can be a great source of accountability and encouragement for these things. After all, that the community we aim for.
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