Michael Youssef - Don't Conform to the World
You know, conformity is a big issue today. It's a huge issue. In fact, if you don't conform, they attack you, they call you names. Sadly, conformity is rampant in our culture. No wonder the apostle Paul repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly warns us against conformity, not just conform to any old way, not to any old pastor or any old preacher, any old person. And that is why the second half of chapter 3 of 2 Timothy, chapter 3, the second half of it, he continues to focus on Timothy's service as a defender of the faith, as a man to stand up and to stand out and not to count the cost and not be afraid and never, never, never give up. And he starts with mentioning three things that help. These are the three things that Paul said are really very helpful for anyone who seeks not to be conforming to the world.
First of all, having an example, having a role model, having a spiritual mentor. And that's why we emphasize mentorship here among the men, among the women, among the students. Mentorship is vitally important. And the second thing is to have a strong connection built on spiritual foundation. And thirdly is an absolute belief, unshakable belief in the authenticity and the authority and the infallibility of the God. We saw in the last message that there was a conjunction, and I explained to you the conjunction, the word but that Paul uses, it means he is going to make a sharp turn. He's going to make a contrast. And he does the same thing here in chapter 3, verse 10, a contrast.
When he says, "But as for you," he's contrasting those ungodly characters of the false teachers and preachers on the one hand and Timothy on the other. "But you," or "As for you, follow not only my teaching," here it comes, "not just my teaching but also my conduct, my purpose, my faith, my patience, my love and experience in persecution and perseverance in suffering" in all these places that he mentions. Everywhere he went, he faced those oppositions. Like Timothy, we all are tempted. We are tempted to weakness, we're all tempted to vacillate. We're all tempted in many other struggles in life. And that is why, listen carefully, that is why it's the very reason why Paul was writing this last letter before he went to be with the Lord in heaven. He is so deeply concerned about what's going to happen, that he's going to heaven, and that he will not be around to personally encourage Timothy one on one, to be there in person to uphold him.
And so, in chapter 3 verses 10 to 15, Paul twice, twice in those five verses, "As for you, as for you, as for you, as for you, don't let them squeeze you into their mold. Don't let them pressure you to wobble on biblical truth. Don't let them cause you to sell out for personal popularity and acceptance. Don't let them blindside you into watering down the message of the cross". This is a consistent message of the apostle Paul. You see it literally in every epistle, why? Because he knows, he knows how easily we all are tempted. He knows how tempting it is to take it easy and to take the easy way out, and not to stand up and be controversial. He knows how enticing acceptance and popularity is, he knows that.
And that is why in Romans 12 verse 2 he said, "Do not let the world's system pressure you into conformity and mold you into its mold". I can tell you, as God as my witness, I know experientially, this is not a theory for me, I know experientially this colossal pressure. I know, oh, especially when they call you names. You don't want to be called those names. If you do not conform to their worldview, if you do not use politically correct language, they will call you unloving. Imagine they call us unloving. What they are doing is they are projecting what they have, the hatred they have in their hearts, on us. This pervasive and insidious atmosphere is deadly, and the apostle Paul knew that, and I thank God for that. Sometime ago they asked Vance Havner, they said to him, they said, "You know, the world is becoming so church-y". And he said, "That's because the church has become so worldly".
Instead of invading the world for Christ, the world lies has been invading the church. I can tell you that there is no church on the face of the earth that can totally meet your needs. I'm telling you, trust me. God forbid that there is a church that can meet all your needs. God forbid that anyone can meet your needs except the Lord Jesus Christ. The church's call, the pastor's call, the elder's call, the deacon's call, whatever church you go to, the call of the body of believers is to take people by the hand and place their hand in the hand of the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will meet all of your needs. He alone can meet all of your needs, according to the riches of his glory. And that is why the great apostle is telling Timothy to stand firm. Stand firm in what you have learned from me. Stand firm in doctrinal purity. Stand firm in finding and following God's purpose for your life. Stand firm in patience, in love, in endurance in the face of pressure and persecution. Stand firm and refuse to be squeezed and become a people pleaser.
Verse 12, "Know this". Know what? "Know this, that godly living," listen carefully, godly living will always, always, always, always arouse antagonism from the ungodly, always will. That can come from a home, it can come from workplace, it can come from neighbors, it can come from some churches. Please listen, this was a fact when Jesus walked the earth, and it's a fact today. Listen to what he said in John chapter 15, "If the world hates you, know that it hated me before it hated you. If you are of the world, the world will love its own, but because you are not of the world; therefore, the world hates you".
Beloved, there are only two types of people who can avoid pressure, persecution, alienation, rejection. Two kinds of people. The first group escapes pressure to conform by withdrawing from the world, by withdrawing from the secular world. The second group escapes pressure by giving in and they conform to the world's standards. But as for you, as for you, as for you, as for you, as for you, as for you, this is very important, listen carefully. You who are godly, you who upholds godly living, you who are standing firm on biblical authority, you who never give up at any cost, as for you. Young men please listen to me, listen to me young men. I don't care how cute she looks, if she pressures you to sin, walk away. Young women listen to me. I don't care how curly his hair is or how big his biceps are, if he pressures you to sin, walk out. They may intimidate you, criticize you, hate you, but take heart, Jesus knows how you feel, and he will honor you, and he will bless you sooner or later. Amen, give God glory, give God glory, give God glory.
But as for you, as for you, as for you, as for you, stand firm, why? Because God loves you so deeply. And even in the persecution, the godly will grow upward, the godly will go forward, the godly will consistently advance, the godly will eternally be invincible. By contrast, the evil people, verse 13, look at it, the evil people, they're going to go from bad to worse. They are on the road to destruction. They will be intellectually and spiritually ruined. I am so grateful that I lived long enough to see this, I really am, because there are times in the past I will say, "How can they get away with this? Why would God let them get away with this"? And I just wait a little bit, wait a few years, and I say, "Oh God, you are a marvelous God". And that is why Paul said, "Avoid them". Avoid them. If you're listening to false preachers and false teachers, you have one choice: run. Don't listen to their teaching, reject their falsehood, refute their deception.
I remember back in the '70s, you see that's when you see, you live long enough you'll see things. Back in the early '70s, I remember there was a segment of what was called the church growth movement. The church growth movement is fine and many good people and godly people in that movement, but there was a segment in that church growth movement, they said, "If you avoid preaching on difficult subjects like hell," not like hell, subject like hell, "you'll grow a church". All these people are gone. They're gone, and the Word of God stands supreme. Then they're followed by a group of people who said, "Well, you know you need to say that we don't know exactly what Jesus meant when he said these things, so be ambivalent about it. We don't know everything about it in the Bible, so don't preach it". These are gone, too, and the Word of God stays supreme. Then they are followed by another group of theologians. They said, "Since the gospel has been written by men about Jesus, we are not really sure, we don't know if Jesus really says these things. Therefore, we declare that there is no hell and heaven, it's what you make of it".
Now, of course, the result of this, because this is the closest to our time, is that we have so many churches spiritually bankrupt. I often mesmerize myself and I ask those people who say there is no hell, I tell them, I say, "Pray tell me, why did Jesus come from heaven? Why did he die on a cross? Why did he shed his blood? What did he rise again? Why"? And the Apostle Paul knew that there will be those who will bring doubt upon the Word of God, he knew that, just like Satan did in the Garden. And you know what? Satan's not really very clever, he just keeps repeating. He keeps repeating the same thing, "Did God really say"? I mean, you boil it down to that. And so, Paul affirms the truthfulness of all the Word of God. How many of it? All of the Word of God. He affirms the integrity of all the Bible. He affirms the verbal inspiration of the whole scripture. He, by the power of the Holy Spirit, affirms that all of the holy scripture is God-breathed.
Verse 15, he tells Timothy the very scripture that his mom and grandma taught him growing up, all that prepared him for the preaching of the gospel by Paul, it's because the Old Testament is telling that Jesus is coming, so when he heard that the Messiah had come, he put his faith in Jesus. He was prepared to receive the Messiah. Christian parents, please listen to me, you will never find a more sympathetic pastor than I am. I know the challenges of bringing up children. I always say my children taught me sanctification. And if you have teenagers, you'll understand what I'm talking about. This is a code between us parents, okay? With every ounce of my energy, I want to encourage you, prepare your children to stand up in the battlefield, prepare your children to stand upon the Word of God, prepare your children to have confidence in the Word of God.
The greatest legacy you leave our children and grandchildren is not a great education, good and important as it may be, or leave them a trust fund, good and if you can afford it wonderful, but the greatest legacy, the best legacy, the most enduring legacy is to teach them to appreciate, revere, and obey the Word of God. The way to protect our children from deception is to teach them how to know and how to love the Word of God. Let them see you apply the Word of God in your life. Let them watch you practice the Word of God in your life. Let them see how you bring the Word of God to bear upon a problem or a crisis in the family. And when they see you not only reading the Bible, but living it, applying it in every circumstance in your life, they too will grow to trust in the Word of God. Question, why was the apostle Paul so burdened to affirm the authenticity and the authority of the Word of God, why is he?
Look at verse 16. He gives us a reason. And when he says what he says in verse 16, he does not mean, as some people teach and preach today, that it means that we feel inspired. That's what they think the word inspiration, that we feel inspired when we read the Word of God, just like you're inspired when you listen to poetry or Shakespeare or some good literature. No, and a million no. It means that God is the one who brought the Bible into existence by the breathing of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit invaded the minds and the hands of the writers as they were writing. God spared and prepared these writers for this purpose, so much so that Jeremiah says, "Before I was born, you prepared me for this".
Each writer had his own distinctive style and vocabulary, each book of the Bible grew out of a special set of circumstances, and yet, throughout all of this, God's hand was breathing, God's hand was training. The writers were like sailors, they were just hoisting the sail, but the wind, the Holy Spirit, ruach, ruach means wind and spirit both, the wind of the Holy Spirit blew and took the ship where he wants it to go. Both Old and New Testament are of uttermost importance. Why? Because they reveal to us the mind of God, they reveal to us the heart of God, they reveal to us the character of God. Where else would we know about God? And because it is God-breathed, therefore it is profitable in instruction regarding salvation.
There's something here I need to tell you, and I want you to listen very carefully, because you can easily misunderstand me, okay, about the Bible. Don't miss this. The Bible's primary purpose is not to teach us about science, is not to teach us about history. The primary purpose of the Bible is not to teach us about the nature of the stars and the galaxies. No, the Bible primary purpose, the Bible overarching purpose is to tell us how to be saved. Ah, but after we are saved, we learn that God created it all from nothing, that God created us from dust, that God is in total control of the galaxies and the stars, that God is in control of the heavens and the planets, that God is the one who made the stars to dance in their orbits. But the Bible primarily concerned with how to be saved eternally, how to be saved.
The Bible is salvation's handbook, and it tells us salvation is only possible through Jesus the Christ. The Old Testament foretold of his coming; the New Testament says he's here. The Old Testament foreshadowed Jesus; the New Testament announces his life, death, and resurrection, and salvation. And that is why those who want to undermine biblical morality, biblical ethics, if they ever want to get into this, they don't start there. They start by undermining our confidence in the Word of God. That's how they start. First of all, you undermine the confidence, and that's why they say we need to be unhitched from certain parts of the Bible. We need to be unhitched from those parts that we don't like. We need to be unhitched. And once you got unhitched, it's free for all. The Word of God is our roadmap to salvation. The Word of God is light that leads us to salvation. The Word of God transforms lives all across the world. The Word of God radically alters our character.
And so, let me ask you this as I conclude, are you broken? The Word of God is more than able to mend your broken heart. Are you lonely and hurting? The Word of God will comfort and soothe your wounds. Are you carrying a load of guilt? The Word of God can take that load off you and off your shoulders and set you free. Are you bitter and unable to forgive? The Word of God will show you how to get rid of that bitterness. Are you defeated and you feel hopeless? The Word of God will give you hope and victory and lift you above your circumstances. Are you discouraged and despondent? The Word of God will make you victorious. Are you sad? The Word of God will give you joy unspeakable in the midst of your sadness. Are you lost? Well, the Word of God is a lamp unto our feet and will guide you to salvation.