Matt Hagee - The Priority of Principle
If you brought your Bibles, turn them to the book of 2 Timothy 3:1 through 5, as this morning we begin a sermon series entitled "Prospering in perilous times". I don't think you have to look too far in the world that we're living in to consider that these might be some perilous times. Today we're going to see the world that we live in and understand very clearly what we can do about it, so that we can indeed prosper in perilous times. If you found 2 Timothy 3, say, amen.
Let's begin with verse 1. "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of Godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away"! And whatever you do, don't vote for them. That's paraphrase. That's not, that's not, that's in the miv, my international version. That's not in yours. Verse 16 and 17, read with me. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that a man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work".
Heavenly Father, help us to see the distinction between the men of this earth and the men of God on this earth. Help us to understand the difference between the way of this world and the way of your word. And then choose how we might live in your kingdom principles and promises, and see your goodness in our lives in the land of the living. In Jesus' name, we pray and ask. And all of God's children said, amen.
You may be seated. It's important to understand the context in which Timothy receives this letter from Paul. Paul is not going to live much longer. He's in prison in Rome. He realizes that the date and the time of his execution is set, and he starts to write some final letters. And one of the letters he writes is to his successor. It's to his son in the faith, Timothy. And he tells Timothy that there's some things that are going to happen between now and when Christ returns. This is the biblical phrase, "But know this, in the last days". Say those words with me. "Last days".
Now the thing that is important to understand is that "The last days" describe the time between the ascension of Christ after his resurrection and the return of Christ. Paul warns Timothy. He says, from these kinds of people, turn away. Why? Because they're living as if the judgment of God is not real and there are no consequences to the choices that they've made. And Paul tells Timothy in this chapter: he says God is going to judge them and you don't want to be with them when they get judged. And then he tells Timothy: he says: but you don't have to do that, because you've been shown a better way. And the better way that you've been shown has come through the principles of the faith that you've received from those that you have observed, mainly Paul. But he's saying to Timothy, the time has come for you to quit watching me and acting like me and behaving like me.
And it's time for you to pick up the Word of God and do it for yourself. And I believe that therein lies the message to the church in the world today. We get to see so much of the faith. We get to hear the faith on television. We get it in podcasts. We get it on the radio. We get it in motivational little videos that get posted on your phone and sent to you. And all of this, we take in and we take it in and we take it in. And sometimes we imitate it and sometimes we regurgitate it. But what we need to understand is that it's not enough to look like it and act like it. Sooner or later, we've got to do something to be like it. And this is where Paul tells Timothy, look, the secret to this is not in behavior, the secret to this is not in any form of group that you've joined. The secret to this is that "All scripture". Say that with me. "All scripture".
And those are two simple words but they're hard to swallow. Because I don't know about you, I have places in scripture I like to go. And then I have places in scripture I like for others to go for me. Because those are the places where the mirror of God's word gets uncomfortable for me. It's easy for me to look at the things that I have no problem obeying, because that's where I feel like I'm patting myself on the back in the Holy Ghost. But when I see something that the Holy Spirit reminds me, you need to work on, that's where I don't like the reflection that's looking back at me in the mirror. And I have to remember that "All scripture", say it with me again, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and it is profitable".
And Paul tells Timothy, if you will take all scripture and understand the purpose and the power of its use in your life, you will be complete. You will be thoroughly equipped for every good work. What he's saying is, even though perilous times are going to come, you, Timothy, can prosper in perilous times. And what I'm saying to you today is that God is no respecter of persons. If you will take the truth of God's word and not let it be something that you listen to but something that you live, not let it be something that you're a part of but something that's a part of you, then you, too, can be equipped for every good work and you can prosper in perilous times.
And the way that you prosper in perilous times is the first thing you have to do is consider what the Bible says in Romans 12:2, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your", what? "Mind". "Conformed" and "Transformed," two very different words. "Conformation" means that what is there gets molded. And "Transformation" means that what was there no longer is there but it's changed. And so what Paul is writing in the Roman Church here is he's saying, don't let the world shape your thinking. Change your thinking by getting the Word of God into your life, and in doing so, transform your mind. Why? Because when it comes to prosperity, there's two cultures that are being discussed here. One is the carnal culture, the corrupt culture of this world, the one that Paul is talking about in 2 Timothy where men are lovers of themselves, lovers of money, and all of the other characteristics that come along with it. "From such people turn away".
If you have that definition of prosperity, you will never prosper enough, because the carnal world, the corrupt world, the fallen world is always operating off of scarcity. How many conversations do we have in our world today that have the word "Shortage"? Oh, there's an oil and gas shortage. No, there's not. Oh, there's a water shortage. No, there's not. Oh, there's a power shortage. When you're not home, turn up the heat. Why? So when I get home, it's 97 and I make it 52, and then we just drain everything in the evening? You see, when you look at the world's definition of prosperity, it runs off of scarcity. When you look at the kingdom's definition of prosperity, it runs off of abundance. Man will never have enough. Our God is a God of more than enough. Which means, not only can he bless you, but he can bless me and he can bless your children and he can bless your children's children.
But how do you receive that in this life? The first thing you do is you have to transform your thinking. You cannot conform God into the things of this world. God does not fit in the world's box. His ways are higher than our ways. His resources are different than our resources. His definitions are not the same as our definitions. We look at gold as something precious. God looks at gold as asphalt. Once you understand the difference between conformation and transformation, you begin to realize that the world's rules do not work in heavenly places. This is what Jesus was proving whenever they said, "Is it just to pay taxes"? And Jesus said, "Give to Caesar what's Caesar's".
He was saying, if you want to live in the world system, you have to live by world's rules. Because if you don't give Caesar what he is owed, he's going to put you in jail. And then they said, "Is it just for you to pay taxes"? He says, sure. Hey, Peter, go catch a fish. Peter goes and catches a fish, and guess what's in his mouth? The money that's owed to Caesar. But it was Christ' way of saying, I'm not in this system. I can find all kinds of ways to get the world's resources into the right place. Which means you have to transform your thinking. You cannot work with your carnal mind, because that mind is at war with God.
2 Timothy 3, the descriptions that Paul is giving of the types of people that are going to live in these perilous times, do you know what they are? Instinctual man. Instinctual man is disobedient to parents. How many of you parents had to teach your child to say "No"? I mean they got that one all of their own. Why? Because it was in their nature to do so. How many of you had to teach somebody to think about themselves? What's the first thing a child learns after "No"? Mine. Mine, mine, mine, mine, at a point in their life when nothing is theirs. Not even their pacifier. Honor the Lord with the firstfruits of all your endeavors and see your blessings return in abundance.
Paul is saying that if you are going to live like the world, you're going to live like an instinctual man. And if you're going live like a child of God in this world, you've got to transform your mind. And in order for your mind to be transformed, you have to realize that the nature of God has to come live in you, because your instincts are never going to allow that nature to exist outside of his grace and outside of his power and outside of his mercy. You cannot be who God wants you to be in your own strength. That's why you need him in order to help you do it. So how do you transform your mind? You transform your mind by reading the Word of God. What does reading the Word of God do for you? Well, in many places in the word, you find the benefits of it to be things like, "Health to your navel, and marrow to your bones".
How many of you are interested in strength? Read the Word of God. In other places, when you read the Word of God, you find that it is a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path. How many of you are concerned about direction? Read the Word of God. In other places you read things like, "His word will be a shield and his word will be a sword". How many of you are concerned about things like protection? Read the Word of God. "No weapon formed against you shall prosper". You see, the thing about reading the Word of God is that the words you ingest becomes the word you possess. And when you possess the word, then you can declare the word. And when you declare the word, then you begin to see the word.
One of the problems that we have in the American church today is that we hear the word but we don't ever ingest the word, which means we can't possess the word. So when you begin to read the word, and then you begin to speak the word, guess what's going to happen? You're going to start to see the word. And when you want to prosper in perilous times, you need to possess a word that gives you a promise that you want to see in your life. You need to know that the quality of your life is determined by the quality of your God.
In the first five verses of 2 Timothy 3, Paul is telling Timothy that there are a group of people who are determining their life by the quality of their God. If you are a lover of self and you have a form of Godliness but deny the power thereof, who is your God? You. Men will be lovers of self. If you love yourself more than you love anything else, who's sitting on the throne in your life? You are. And as Paul begins to describe the things that happen to these types of individuals, he's reminding us of this biblical principle that we see from the Old Testament all the way through to the end of the New Testament, and that is that the quality of your life is determined by the quality of your God. Perilous times come because the way that men are choosing to behave are making things worse and worse and worse on the earth, because they have made themselves God.
What I want is most important. What I think is what I'm going to believe. This is why we have people running around saying, "My truth". There is no more selfish statement on the face of the earth than that, because you do not possess truth. "Thy word is truth". And whatever you say has to be balanced against this. So we have a situation where men have chosen for themselves what kind of God they're going to serve. And what you need to know is that the quality of your life is determined by the quality of your God. Low quality God/low quality life. In the world that we live in, there will always be systems and things that imitate the power of God. Our God has promised us that he would care for us: that we would prosper. "Beloved, I wish above all things that you prosper and be in good health even as your soul prospers".
And there will be systems in the world that promise the same thing, except the definitions of God's prosperity and the definitions of the world's prosperity are very different from one another. God's prosperity is all-encompassing, physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially. Man's prosperity says, "Give us this much money, and in this much time, we'll give you this much return". That's just a math equation. That's not prosperity. And the thing is, is if you choose to put your faith in man's promise, you are going to abandon God's promise. But if you stay faithful to God's promise, God's promise is always going to be more powerful than man's promise. And it may take a little bit of time, but sooner or later, his promise is going to consume the system of man. And you're going to find out that the God that we serve is a way-making deliverer who can pull you through any and every circumstance.
We see this in Elijah's day. Jezebel comes to Israel. She becomes the wife of king Ahab. She decides that Baal is God. Jezebel, she's actually named after the false God. She's a priestess in his temple. And she says, "If it rains, Baal makes it rain. If it grows, Baal makes it grow. If you have it, Baal's the one who gave it to you". Does that sound like an imitator? Absolutely. Now in the time of Ahab and Jezebel, there was a righteous remnant of priests who stood up and opposed this. They said, that's wrong. "Thou shall have no other Gods before me". They stood up and they spoke up for truth. Do you know what happened? They got killed. They didn't get canceled. They got killed. They didn't get disliked and banned from social media platforms. They got... Those are real consequences, life and death kind of stuff.
So whenever Jezebel kills a remnant group of priests that are standing up for Jehovah God, the rest of Israel does exactly what Paul describes to Timothy. They have a form of Godliness but they deny the power thereof. What do I mean? I mean that the form of Godliness was when they went home into the privacy of their house, they fell on their face, and they said, "Oh God, I'm sorry. I don't really believe in Baal, but if I don't pray to Baal, she's going to kill me". And then they would walk out of their house and they'd see Jezebel, and go, "Oh, isn't it a great day that Baal has given us? This is the day that Baal has made". And they go back to their house, and they say, "Oh God, I'm so sorry. You know exactly how I feel. And I mean hr is breathing down my throat right now. I've got to go to Baal training".
And then when they got outside the house, they just towed the line and live according to whatever the culture was, because they didn't want to go against culture. They had to be accepted by the culture, because they could get canceled. And one man, Elijah, the Bible says that he walks into Ahab's throne room, and he tells Ahab: he says, "It's not going rain unless I say so". And when you're in an agrarian society where you have to have rain in order for grain and grass and things to grow so that your economy can prosper, what he just said is, the economy is going to crash unless I say it turns around. And for three and a half years, it didn't rain. For three and a half years, no crops grew. For three and a half years, the Israeli economy was cratered. Why? Because this imitator, Baal, was being shown up by Jehovah God: that he was in control of nothing and Jehovah was in control of everything.
Now, the people who had a form of Godliness in their home but denied the power thereof out in the street, do you know what they went through? A famine. They went through a drought. They didn't have any good water to drink. They didn't have any good food to eat. "Their belly button rubbed a blister on their backbone," as the country folk used to say. But Elijah, what did he do? You see, he had a transformed mind. He didn't conform to Jezebel's way and then say to God he was sorry on Sunday. Elijah took a stand. And he said, this isn't going to fly, because Baal doesn't make it rain. God does. And Baal doesn't make it grow. God does. And Baal doesn't take care of me. God does. And Jezebel said, I want his head. And Elijah went and hid. And the Bible says he hid by the brook Kidron.
Now everybody down in the big city who's got a form of Godliness but denies the power, they need a drink. But God's man is hiding up here in a hill country retreat with running water. The brook didn't run dry, and even before there were Ubereats and DoorDash. The Bible says, "Ravens brought him food". He didn't even have an app and he was getting it delivered. And then one day, the brook dries up, and the ravens don't show up. And Elijah says, "God, what do you want me to do"? He says, "I want you to go to a widow woman's house". He goes to a widow woman's house. And what happens at the widow woman's house? She's got enough masa for one more tortilla. And God says, Elijah, I want you to ask her for it, and with a transformed mind.
With a conformed mind, with a natural mind, he would have said, that's the cruelest thing I could ever ask for, her last bite of food. With a transformed mind, he says, the greatest thing this woman could ever do is give what she has to God. And in giving it to God, she never ran out of oil. She never ran out of flour. She never ran out of what she needed. She was fed. Her child was fed. The man of God was fed. Why? Because our God is able. Our God is able. Child of God, if you will allow his word to transform you, if you will allow his truth to direct you, if you will allow his power to come through you, there isn't anything that you face in this life that God cannot overcome.
I know we live in perilous times. I know we're in places that we've never been before in our lifetime. But what I'm telling you is, our God is able. There isn't anything that catches him by surprise. If the mountains be turned into the midst of the sea, nothing is too difficult for him. He can make a way where there seems to be no way. He can open up the windows of heaven and pour out upon you blessings that you cannot contain. The things in your life, in your past that the locusts have eaten and the famine has caused, God has a promise that he can restore those years. He can restore that loss. He can restore what the enemy has stolen. Why? I can't tell you why other than the fact he said so. I can't tell you how other than I know he can do it. I can't tell you when, because his time is not our time. But what I can tell you is, if you put your faith in him, all things are possible to them that believe! Give the Lord a handclap of praise!