Sunday, November 25, 2007

Style over substance?

2 Timothy 3v1-9, Godless folly.

Now for the dessert. Christmas pudding. We begin with fakes. My most embarrassing moment, or one of them at least, when I worked for Natwest was taking in a fake note over the counter. Faking is stupid, but it happens. Imagine you were England football Manager and someone offered you a Beckham-a-like for your team. It'd be fine for the media stuff, but on the pitch... Or imagine you started plagiarising. Imagine you were so good at it that you got all the way through to a PhD viva wit it. And then you spent four hours being grilled on what you know... and it all falls apart. Faking isn't new. In 3v8 we meet some ancient fakers. Jannes and Jambres. God had saved Egypt through Joseph but soon after they'd forgotten God. When God told them to let his people God they refused. Pharoah was given signs by Moses and his flukeys imitated Moses, move for move.

Likewise in the first century. Paul and Timothy were teaching the word but so were others. Teachers who had style but no substance, puff but no power. They had the language. They had the image. But that was all they had. People who, v2, are self-lovers, money-lovers. Instead of being, v3, lovers of the good. They have the style and the image, v5, a form of godliness. But they deny it's power. God-haters. Style is fine for a while, but it soon goes out of fashion. Style-driven pursue relevance but are are condemned to irrelevance.

Style ministries persecute the church with delusions of power. They avoid Jesus prefering rules, rituals and experience. Catchphrase Christianity that sounds spiritual but lacks power. I'm wont name-and-shame today's fakes. But, know that like Timothy you need discernment. So devoted to the real thing that you see fakes a mile off. Fakes, v7, are 'always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth'. They have delusions of progress and the appearance of being spiritual but time unmasks them as empty. With no power for change they can only poison the church.

They're parasites on the church and Timothy has to learn to live with them. We considered that in chapter 2. They avoid it to avoid it's embarrassment and shame, to avoid the hardship that godly people must endure. There are illusions of growth but no real substance. They wear the Emperors New Clothes, with their fine words and highly endorsed books. (and popular blogs?) But, v9 in the end everyone will see. In due course the wrath they deserve will come to them...

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