A clip making the rounds on Facebook from Fox “120 Sports” shows the self-absorption of people consistent (in my opinion) of the prophetic verse from 2 Timothy 3:2, “men will be lovers of self”. Here is a still shot-
I snapped this photo that is below 8 years ago when cell phones with cameras were just coming into the fore. I was shocked and surprised at the amount of time the gals were taking to gaze upon themselves. Of course, 8 years ago, the word ‘selfie’ hadn’t been invented yet. ‘Selfie’ was Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year in 2013. They note that the use of the word selfie increased 17,000 percent from 2012 to 2013.
I do not own a cellphone so being on ‘the outside’, I see cell phone mania all the more.
In one of his letters to Timothy, Paul strongly warned about the behavior of humans in the last days. The last days/end time/last times has been occurring since Jesus ascended and will conclude when He returns. (Acts 2:16-17, cf Joel 2:28). Because of the deteriorating nature of man individually and of society, the times will worsen as the last days progress. (2 Timothy 3:13, 2 Timothy 2:16).
Paul’s specific warning to Timothy about the perilous times that were ahead for the young pastor included a lengthy list of behaviors that will be evidence of the times and which will be contributing to the deterioration of society. Here is Paul’s warning.
Godlessness in the Last Days
1But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 9But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men. (2 Timothy 3:1-9).
Let’s look at the warning about being lovers of self in the last days. Paul’s warnings regarded the difficult times in the church. He was giving Timothy warnings about spiritual impostors and urging him to oppose them and expose them. We know that the world is difficult, godless, and selfish. What will be the difficulty is that the church will become infested with and overrun by people who are the world but pretend to be godly.
In John Warwick Montgomery’s book Damned Through the Church, Montgomery outlines 7 epochs in church history where times have been especially difficult. These have been movements of certain theological orientations which have negatively impacted the church. One of them was that the self has become God, and this movement is still affecting the Church at large in this day and age. As the MacArthur Commentary on 2 Timothy states,
It would be appropriate to add to Montgomery’s list the current emphases on mysticism, which seeks to determine truth about God by intuition and feeling, and pragmatism, which attempts to determine what is true by what produces desired effects. These movements do not come and go but come to stay, so that as the years go on, the church accumulates them, and the battles continue.
If you have ever heard a teacher like Beth Moore or Priscilla Shirer or any of the younger female teachers such as from the Propel Movement or the IF:Gathering, they often speak of how we feel as the determiner of truth. Here is an example of that mysticism:
What Moore is saying here is that if we have certain feelings inside of us, it brings us closer to God. But the truth is, it’s about Who we worship, not how we feel. And what if I don’t feel romanced by a sunset (what does that even mean?), then am I apart from God? And how long is this romance feeling supposed to last? How can I sustain this romantic feeling or increase it to feel even closer to Him? What if I “can’t” feel romanced by the sun, when then? You see the issue with constantly teaching about our feelings.
As for the pragmatism, here is an example. If you ever hear anyone say something like, “We packed the church tonight, it must have really been a big move of God!” They look at the numbers of attendees for evidence that the Spirit is working, not whether truth was proclaimed. No one ever thinks that the large numbers attending the program, event, or speaker may have been because satan was planting tares. (Matthew 13:35).
The original sin was pride. It was first found in satan in heaven and he imported it to earth and deceived Adam and Eve. Their rebellion was based on a foundation of loving self more than loving God, thus violating the first commandment. (Exodus 20:3, Matthew 22:37-39).
This notion of self-love and self-esteem infiltrated the church early last century and only grew from there. I remember as a teacher of young children in the 1980s when the self-esteem movement came in full force. The secular world had grabbed it and would not let go. All children were winners in the game, teaching reading was (nearly) out, but we were supposed to spend time in the first segment of the day teaching self-esteem and affirming everything the children did or said. It was only a matter of time before the secular world’s self-love which had coalesced into psychology, esteem movements, personality cults. and affirmation with no companion concepts of discipline or boundaries came into the church. The tares brought it in. They still are.
Another memory is the 1972 book “I’m OK, You’re OK” by Thomas Anthony Harris. It is one of the best selling self-help books ever published. It is a practical guide to Transactional Analysis as a method for solving problems in life. (source). Satan constantly attempts to shift our eyes from God to the self, and once gazing at the self, to believe that we are really just all right and do not need anything from God. We are our own gods.
When we see such fascination with one’s self like in the video or photos above, you can be sure that the same attitudes are also present in the church, just as Paul warned. At the root of the self-esteem problem is one that is really pride. The attitude is ‘I’m OK, I am not a depraved sinner in need of the cleansing blood of Jesus, I need nothing from God, I am my own god’ which is exactly what satan believes. (Isaiah 14:14).
Gill commented on the 2 Timothy perilous times/lovers of self verse:
For men shall be lovers of their own selves,…. Not in a good sense, as men may be, and as such are who love their neighbours as themselves, and do that to others they would have done to themselves; and who take all prudent and lawful care to preserve the life and health of their bodies, and seek in a right way the salvation of their immortal souls:
but in a bad sense, as such may be said to be, who only love themselves; their love to God, and Christ, and to the saints, being only in pretence, not in reality; and who do all they do in a religious way, from a principle of self-love, and to selfish and mercenary ends…
How can one avoid the pitfall of self-love? It IS our natural inclination after all. Let’s look at what scripture says.
First, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27).
If we are filled with loving God utmost, it doesn’t leave much room to love ourselves. We do fail at this, no one loves God totally all the time, completely. As a matter of fact, the world’s pull is going in the opposite direction, where the times are like the days of Noah when men thought of evil all the time. (Genesis 6:5). So we rely on the Holy Spirit in us more and more to weed out the attachment to the world and the hate in our own hearts so that we may love God all the more. Further, that love of Him and then our neighbor more than ourselves is expressed not just in feelings, but in actions.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. . (Philippians 2:3-4).
We’re not out to please ourselves but to look after the interests of others. (Philippians 2:21, Romans 15:1).
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
Love, do, look, carry… If we are looking unto God and caring for and doing good to our neighbor, we won’t have time for selfies.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14)