having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. avoid such people. for among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. just as jannes and jambres opposed moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. but they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men. [2 timothy 3:5–9]
summer of 2002. i had just graduated high school. texting was not a thing yet. i didn’t even have a cell phone (i know, i’m old), but all of my friends did. one night i sat at home all night with no plans. the next day i found out all of my friends had been hanging out. i wondered why no one had invited me. turns out, they had all tried calling each other to find out who i was hanging out with. joel called nathan, nathan called mark, mark called joe, and so on and so on. but i wasn’t with any of them. they were all confused as to where i could possibly be if i wasn’t with any of them. but none of them called my house! they called each other looking for me, but since i didn’t have a cell phone, none of them bothered to try to directly contact me.
it was laughable to me at the time. searching for one person in all of these indirect routes instead of coming straight to the actual person – me.
godliness is genuine pursuit of God’s commands. it is personal holiness and faith.
but as for you, o man of God…pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. [1 timothy 6:11]
for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. [1 timothy 4:8]
but godliness with contentment is great gain, [1 timothy 6:6]
its power is the very power of God for salvation worked out through the gospel in the person of Christ and the ongoing work in the believers life through the Holy Spirit.
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. [2 timothy 1:7]
for i am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the jew first and also to the greek. [romans 1:16]
the false teachers paul is warning timothy about never arrive at the truth because they omit the power of God, the gospel, from their teaching and learning. it doesn’t matter how accurate their knowledge is, without the person of Christ, it will always be incomplete. i want to offer two things for us to pay attention to in our lives.
first, how do we know when we are following false teachers? one tool to use is to evaluate if the teacher ever talks about Jesus as the solution. if someone proclaims a lot of good action, even displays it in their life, but never points to Jesus, they will never be able to point you to the truth. avoid these teachers and their teachings. and to be clear, this doesn’t just mean avoid preachers and other religious leaders. this could be anyone speaking into the public sphere through media, pulpit, or any other means.
second, in your life, where is there an appearance of godliness but absence of Jesus? where in your life are you attempting to pursue right living but denying the only way to actually do it?
just like my friends who were looking for me but never tried to actually come to me, i want to propose that we are doing the same thing when we search for truth but never go to God himself. that when we pursue godliness but not Jesus that we are missing the point. so today i encourage you to go directly to what you are looking for. my friends could have called me directly at anytime. God longs for us to enter into his presence instead of searching for him in pleasantries, moralism, or anywhere else. may we know this to be true and go directly to the one we are searching for.
draw near to God, and he will draw near to you…[james 4:8]
~ keith kozlowski