“lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God”
II Timothy 3:4
It is the best of times and the worst of times. We have advances in technology, science, medicine, transportation, and instant access to good books, sermons, and Bible study resources like never before in the history of the world. However, in our golden age of information access, we are rejecting God, rejecting the Bible, rejecting Jesus, rejecting the Judeo-Christian ethic, and worshiping science and self. Our country is like the times of the judges when, “everyone did what was right in their own eyes because there was no king in Israel (Judges 17:6).” A complete moral collapse is taking place. People realize that if you reject the Bible, there are no moral absolutes, no right or wrong. You can do what you want, and if anyone says anything about it, they are committing a hate crime. Everything is acceptable today except being an outspoken Bible believing Christian.
In II Tim. 3:1-9 the Apostle Paul discussed the times in which we live. Consider what he says and how it compares to our world today:
1 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. 6 For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. 9 But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes’s and Jambres’s folly was also.
As I read this text recently, the phrase “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” rapped at my conscience. Four times the word “lovers” is used in vss. 1-9. There are “lovers of self, lovers of money (vs. 2), . . . and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (vs. 4).” As I considered my life, my congregation, and many local churches around the world I came to the conclusion that hedonism is alive and well all over the world. Hedonism is the idea that pleasure is the highest good. You would not expect to find it in the church, yet it has crept in nonetheless. Hedonism, which is persistently promoted in the media, is constantly nudging us away from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ (II Cor. 11:3). Let’s consider the phrase “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”
1. Being a lover of pleasure is in contrast to being a lover of God. If you are a lover of pleasure, you can’t be a lover of God and vice versa. You can only serve one master (Mt. 6:24). Devotion to God requires denying yourself every sinful pleasure and also denying yourself many pleasures that are not sinful, but which can never take priority over following Christ.
2. Notice that those who are lovers of pleasure hold to a form of godliness. This means they are religious. They may even be in the church. They may read their Bibles, serve, give, but at a heart level, they are lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. They have a “form” of godliness, but it is a sham, a mere pretense, a fake.
3. Because they love pleasure rather than God, they don’t really know God in a saving way. Paul says they have denied the true power of godliness which comes from repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Yes, they are religious, but they have not repented of the god of pleasure to believe in and receive Jesus Christ. Therefore, they do not have the Holy Spirit. The power of the gospel has not accomplished its transforming work in them. They live for the god of pleasure while they go through the motions of their pseudo-Christianity.
4. True born again believers are then exhorted to “avoid such men as these.” Surely this applies to anyone who is enslaved to any of the vices mentioned in vss. 1-9. Yet it also applies to those who are “lovers of pleasure rather than a lover of God.” We are to avoid religious people who are lovers of pleasure lest we get caught up in their worldly mind set.
Consider with me how the love of pleasure is affecting the church. The majority of people who profess to be Christians do not want to seriously commit themselves to the local church. Why? I think it is hedonism creeping into the church and here’s why I think that:
- Many will get up early to go to work, but not an early church service. They don’t arrive late to work, but they arrive late to church. They love the pleasure of staying up late and sleeping in more than the assembly of believers.
- Many don’t want a Sunday evening service because they want to have “family time,” which for most means flopping down in front of the TV. They desire the pleasure of entertainment more than the assembly of the saints. For them, Sunday is not the Lord’s Day, it is the Lord’s hour and a half.
- Many don’t want to go to Sunday school and the church service because they want to get church over with quickly as possible so they can play on Sunday. They are more excited about their hobbies and after church activities then they are about being with the church, hearing the Word of God preached, serving, and fellowshipping with the saints.
- Many won’t get up faithfully to pray, read, and study their Bibles. Yes, they want to read their Bibles, but they love the pleasure of staying up late watching TV, playing video games, or surfing the internet more than they love getting up and spending time with the Lord. Spending time with the Lord is convicting, takes discipline, and they would rather have pleasure and ease.
- Many can’t find the time to read good biblically edifying books. “I am not a reader” they say. Well, it is true that some people are not readers, but the reason most aren’t readers is that they don’t read. If they disciplined themselves to read on a regular basis, even if they were slow readers, they would become readers. But they love the pleasure of activities that don’t require the effort or conviction of reading biblically edifying books.
- Many won’t discipline themselves to listen to good sermons, teaching, audio books, or other edifying audio material. There is so much great Bible teaching available now on the internet that you can listen to when you are doing chores, cleaning the garage, going for a walk, driving in your car, etc. But many love the pleasure of secular music and secular talk radio far more than they love the teaching and preaching of the Word of God.
- Many do not like to pray. Yes, they pray in emergencies and pray along during a church service, but ask them to show up to pray with the saints for an hour one day during the week, and anything else seems more pleasurable than praying.
- Many never study their Bibles in preparation for a mid-week Bible study or discipleship group. Some will attend, but don’t expect them to read, study, and prepare beforehand. Sadly, I have found this to be especially true about men. The fact of the matter is they love pleasure more than studying the Bible.
I could go on, but hopefully I have made my point. The world has so many pleasures instantly available to people today that many get into a rigid and inflexible habit of indulging in pleasure. Don’t get me wrong. I am not denouncing all pleasure. God has given us many pleasures to enjoy such as food, sleep, hobbies, books, and entertainment. Yes, there are sinful pleasures, but there are also many pleasures that are not sinful. However, even acceptable pleasures become sinful if you pursue them to the neglect of what is commanded in the Bible.
Let’s say you aren’t spending time with the Lord because you love reading fiction books late into the night. You get up at the last minute to go to work and aren’t reading your Bible. That would be an example of a pleasurable, optional thing, taking the place of a commanded thing. We must seek FIRST His kingdom and righteousness. Then, with whatever time we have left over, we can decide what we want to do with it. We must redeem the time, for the days are evil. And we can decide what we are going to do with the time God gives us after fitting in those necessary things commanded in Scripture.
Think back with me to the late 1800’s and what it must have been like in the evening at home. No radio, TV, internet, or telephone. You came home from work and you—what? If you were a housewife, you most likely did not work outside the home and after cleaning up after dinner you did—what? You talked to each other. You read books. You were more than eager to go to church to be with the saints, to hear a mid-week sermon, to visit with people you hadn’t seen for a few days. Life was slower. People were more social.
Today, most people fit in at least 6 hours of pleasure-providing media every day. Watching TV, video games, surfing the internet, looking at their smart phones, social media, etc. Multiply that times 7 and you get 56 hours of media a week! How much of the media that we Christians engage in edifies, encourages, or builds us up in the Lord? What would happen if people throttled back their media intake to only two hours a day, 14 hours per week? They would have 42 hours of time left to pursue that holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). You might choose to enjoy some social media during the day and a little internet surfing, but let’s assume you say no to TV, video games, or hobbies. You decide to redeem and purchase up all that time for eternity. Is that radical or normal Christianity? Think about it.
I know that suggesting not watching TV or playing video games is like taking away alcohol from an alcoholic for many. It seems extreme, radical, legalistic! Look into your future. Look past this life and into the next. What will you wished you would have done with that extra 42 hours every week? Will you stand before Jesus thankful you watched more or less TV? Will you stand before Jesus wishing you played more video games? Let us tell ourselves the truth now and admit what is so plain, simple, and obvious in the Word of God. Pleasure seeking is not the greatest good. Hedonism is a lie. Every sinful pleasure comes with consequences. Many acceptable pleasures have no lasting benefit.
Consider that reading is more beneficial than TV. Reading stimulates your brain, your imagination, helps you become a better speller, speaker, and writer. Consider that exercising is more beneficial than playing video games, especially if you exercise doing chores that need to be done. Exercise is better for your health. So even if you decide to not use time to pursue the Lord, you have many choices of things to do that are more beneficial than others.
Forty-two hours of time is waiting for you! You could get an on-line degree! You could write a book! Plant, maintain, and harvest a garden. Fix up your house and increase its equity. You could do many things with 42 hours that would give you some benefit. However, what if you used that 42 or even 25 of those hours to discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness (I Tim. 4:7)? What if you committed to go to bed earlier, so you could spend more time with the Lord, read good biblically edifying books, serve the saints more, pray more, listen to sermons and lectures on the Bible more? How would that change your marriage, parenting, life, and eternity?
Sometimes you meet a person or learn about someone who seems to have more time in their day than you do. They get so much done. They seem to have time to do so many things that you don’t have time to do. Actually, you do have time, but you have to say “NO!” to pleasure. I can hear your excuses already because I make give those same excuses myself, “But I am so tired when I come home from work.” “My brain is fried after thinking all day.” “I am getting too old to push myself that hard.”
You are tired after working all day. Try this. Come home and take a 15-30 minute power nap, have a cup of coffee, and see if it doesn’t give you 4-6 more hours of functional time to pursue something more beneficial than pleasure. I know some people are not good nap takers, but if you can’t rest, then you aren’t that tired. I find that if I just shut down for 15 minutes I wake up ready to go! It’s okay to rest, but get rested to use your energy and time for eternity.
Your brain is fried because your job requires you to think hard all day. Often we are fooled into thinking we are physically tired because we are mentally tired. Yet there is a difference. If we don’t get enough physical exercise we may be exhausted mentally, go to bed, fall asleep quickly, but then wake up in the middle of the night restless and awake. Our minds get rested quicker than our bodies. We need both mental and physical activity to sleep well. When we sleep well, we have more energy and think better. In order to compensate for “brain-fry,” try listening to sermons while going for a bike ride, a walk, or doing projects around the house. Make a project list and start working on one of those projects a little each day. You will be amazed how much you can accomplish. Try to get exercise while doing something beneficial, for bodily exercise alone profits little (I Tim. 4:8). Yet even bodily exercise when coupled with sermon listening, the Bible on tape, historical lectures, books on tape, praying, etc., is more beneficial.
You are getting too old to push yourself that hard. I know how this is. I don’t have near the energy I had in my mid 20’s now that I am in my mid 50’s. My endurance is less. I used to be able to study for 12 hours straight almost every day and hardly leave my chair, but I can’t do that anymore. I have to give attention to my outer man a little more than I would prefer. I have to get up, walk around, take power naps, and force myself to exercise more so I can study harder. The fact is there are and have been many older people who worked hard for the Lord until they were taken to glory. Yes, it takes sacrifice and discipline. Yes, you have to say “No!” to your pleasure loving body. As you grow older, figure out how you can bless people more and seek pleasure less.
The world is falling apart while many in the church are choosing pleasure above God. Take some time to talk to the Lord this week about how you are using your time. Consider if hedonism has crept into your life, the false idea that pleasure is the highest form of good. Answer these questions before the Lord:
- Is the love of pleasure keeping me from faithfully reading and studying my Bible?
- Is the love of pleasure making me not attend church faithfully or be involved in serving and giving to the Lord on His day?
- Is the love of pleasure determining what you do with the 56 hours of your week that most spend on media or are you disciplining yourself to do those things that are more beneficial?
- Is the love of pleasure causing you to neglect anything that is commanded in the Bible?
- What changes do you need to make to demonstrate to the Lord and others that you are a lover of God, rather than a lover of pleasure?
- When you ponder standing before the Lord what will you wish you would have done more in this life? Are you striving to do what you wish you will have done after death?
Eternity is approaching quickly for all of us. Let’s not be lulled to sleep on the pillow of worldly pleasure and hedonism so that we wake up after death only to discover we have wasted our life for things that have produced no eternal reward. Let us be lovers of God, rather than lovers of pleasure.