Sheep Don’t Hang with Goats in the Church
Part 1–Avoiding distorted church attenders, 2 Timothy 3:1-5
Do you know the difference between sheep and goats? Sheep are fluffy and goats are flat. Wool comes from sheep, cashmere from goats. Most sheep don’t have horns, most goats do. Sheep graze, goats browse.
But the most important difference between a sheep and a goat is this–goats are independent, while sheep are dependent. Sheep follow the voice of their shepherd. Sheep trust their shepherd to lead them, feed them and protect them–goats do not. Goats are self-willed, don’t follow anyone, are headstrong, and do their own thing. Sometimes in the life of the shepherd, the sheep and the goats are mixed together to move them from one place to another. Later, the shepherd will separate them.
When Christ takes His earthly throne as the King of the Earth, Matthew 25 tells us He will separate the sheep and the goats–sheep to the right and goats are to His left. Sheep will inherit a kingdom prepared just for them, but goats will be accursed and depart into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
The distinguishing difference between these sheep and goats, people, is their deeds. The sheep cared for the sick, clothed the poor, loved the stranger, and visited the prisoner–but the goats did not, because they did not have a born again heart, reminding us that, though you’re saved by grace alone, you are judged by your works. Your speech, behavior, motives and affections do reveal the nature of your heart. Over time, those heart-exposing actions reveal whether a professing believer is a genuine sheep or a phony goat.
God’s Word repeatedly warns you that behavior, character, speech and affections clearly reveal whether someone is legitimately saved or not. First Corinthians 6:9 to 11, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”
Galatians 5:19 to 21, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
And Ephesians 5:5 and 6 say, “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words.” Do not be deceived–this is a certainty. Those who live like goats are goats, even if they hang around the sheep. Today, Paul now commands Timothy and the true sheep in the church of Ephesus, to not hang out with phony goats.
Read with me what he says in 2 Timothy 3:1 to 5, “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.”
Paul begins and ends this paragraph with commands—“know this” and “avoid them.” It’s a fact and you must act on it. If you’re a genuine sheep, stay away from phony goats. Stay away from men or women who speak or act like goats. Students, do not become close circle friends with someone who lives like verses 1 to 5. Families, stop hanging out with other families who are more goat-like than sheep-like. The heath of your spiritual life depends on it. The eternal safety of your children is related to it. The effectiveness of your ministry relies on it. Your intimacy with Christ will be affected by it.
After returning from Somalia, a family friend comes down with smallpox, typhoid, influenza, malaria, cholera, and ebola–all at once. Would that change your behavior? You’d rethink your travel plans to Somalia, right? You’d wonder if he was under judgment. Plus, you’d not have their children come over for a playdate with your kids. You’d also not give your friend or his family a big hug in the hospital. You’d be very careful about what kind of exposure you had with him physically.
Paul is telling Timothy to avoid exposure to the spiritually diseased. This morning, Paul commands Timothy to stay away from goat-like, so-called Christians. Avoid church attenders whose speech, behavior and affections are more like goats than like sheep. In verses 1 to 5, each of you here are being warned. Paul has already told Timothy and all true believers in chapter one–don’t be ashamed of God’s Word, the true Gospel, or those who preach it.
In chapter two–train faithful men who honor God’s Word and will influence others to do the same. Labor in ministry like a soldier, athlete and farmer and never forget what Christ did for you so you can endure trials and persecution. Diligently study God’s Word and don’t be like those who manipulate it, but seek to be a useful vessel for God to use. But if you’re going to become a fruitful tool in God’s hands, you must avoid being close to, hanging with, maintaining friendships with men or women, boys or girls who live like goats. Why is that necessary? Timothy and you today must . . .
#1 Be aware of growing DIFFICULTIES in the Church Verse 1
Paul begins chapter 3 by teaching Timothy there is determined knowledge, a detailed plan and difficult seasons ahead, which demand that you avoid hanging with goats. Verse 1, “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.”
First DETERMINED knowledge Verse 1a
“But realize this”–you caught the very first word in verse 1, right? “But”–indicating a change of direction. From the exhortation to become a useful vessel in verses 20 to 26, to now verse 1, the instruction on becoming a fearless guardian of God’s people. Your disciple, your family, your community group must be protected from false doctrine and immoral living. The command, “realize this” is literally, “know this/understand.” The knowing is and the verb tense is continual. As long as you live, never forget this—obey this warning.
Every one of you in this room must embrace this determined knowledge. Life might be easy, friends solid, family dedicated–but it will not always be that way. Realize this–as life continues, it will get harder, even more difficult. There will be some family and a few friends who will prove they are goats, and not sheep. They will begin to live like the people described in verses 2 to 5. Do you understand?
The longer you live, the more difficult it becomes–as some of your friends, and potentially some of your family, turn out to be the rocky soil who are those who turn to Christ joyfully, but when it gets difficult, they fade away. Others will be the thorny soil, who are those who make a decision for Christ externally, but worry and wealth expose their internal unregenerate heart. A few others will be like Judas or Demas, who look like dedicated believers of Christ, but eventually show themselves to be unbelievers. Still others will be tares, or the lukewarm, who are those who look like the redeemed on the inside, but they are actually merely religious on the outside. As difficult as that is, remember God is in control, and has a . . .
Second DETAILED plan Verse 1b
“Know this: that in the last days–difficult times will come.” Some say things get better with age–like cheese, wisdom and financial investments. But age also includes wrinkles, joint pain, ear hair, loss of hearing and loss of memory. What did I just say? Oh yes, memory loss. Thankfully, in the future there is a new, eternal, glorified body awaiting me. But until then, Paul says here, life will get more difficult—it’s gonna get worse.
You say, “Chris, I know the coming Tribulation will be awful”–that is true. But that is not what Paul means when he says, “that in the last days.” The last days began with the first coming of Christ and will end with the Second Coming of Christ. It’ll be the last days until He comes again and establishes His rule on Earth. The last days have been in effect for about 2,000 years now. How do we know this?
The writer of Hebrews, in 1:1 to 2 declared that God, “after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.” This seems to be clear that the last days, which began with the earthly ministry of Christ, are the ones that Paul is describing here in 2 Timothy 3:1.
Explaining the miraculous descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, quoting Joel 2:28, Peter in Acts 2:16 to 17 says, “This is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit upon all mankind.’” The Messiah initiated these last days, and the continuation of the last days is attested by the descent of His Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the birth of the Church.
In John’s first epistle, in 1 John 2:18, he warned his readers in the Early Church that “it is the last hour,” which, in this context, is the equivalent of the last days. “And just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.” You and I are still living in the messianic time between Christ’s first and second comings, all of which may properly be called the last days. And in these last days, life will get worse. You will have . . .
Third DIFFICULT seasons Verses 1c and 2a
“Difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self.” When Paul writes, “in these last days, difficult times will come”–the Greek word difficult carries the idea of perilous or grievous. In Matthew 8:28, as the Greek word is used to describe the Gadarene demoniacs, the word difficult is translated “violent”. The well-known Greek writer, Plutarch, used the term difficult to describe an ugly, infected, and dangerous wound.
The Greek word for times is not chronos, which would describe chronological time–but times is rather kairos, which refers to periods of time, to seasons, epochs, or eras. The plural use of times may indicate seasons of varying degrees of danger and difficulty the church will experience throughout its history. Paul makes it clear a few verses later, these perilous times will become more frequent and more intense—and the intervening periods of relative tranquility will become less frequent and less peaceful, as the return of Christ nears.
These seasons of danger are severe. In this context, verse 2, men does not refer to mankind in general, or to the unsaved world—but to church members and to leaders in Christ’s Church. Men who not only claim the name of Christ, but claim to be His ministers, His pastors, teachers, and evangelists. These men are all church-attending, deceived, and mistaught make-believers and apostate leader/teachers in the church. And be warned–they don’t always speak like the unsaved, they don’t always look like the unsaved.
Paul reminds you in verse 5, “they are holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.” They often look really spiritual–and that fact poses a colossal threat to the spiritual health of the church. Are you getting just how difficult these seasons will be? Paul is saying, “It will be hard to determine, at times, who is true and who is false.” It will be difficult to maintain godly conduct as you confront error from externalists. It will be challenging to know how to act.
It will be grueling to try to confront the evil corruption. It’ll be painful for Christians because of all the confusion that will come from self-loving, indulgent, materialistic make-believers, manifesting the evil characteristics described in these verses. There will be a new heathenism with a Christian name, led by vicious men who claim to be Christians. They even look godly in a manner, but are void of the Holy Spirit and His transforming power.
These seasons are here now and they are deadly. People can destroy Christians, leaders and churches merely through social media and the internet–posting lies, misinterpreting reality, accentuating weaknesses, twisting statements, attacking character, raising questions of doubt. And nothing can be done to correct it–difficult times have come.
#1 Be aware of growing DIFFICULTIES in the Church
The sheep don’t embrace wolves, nor befriend corrupted goats. And to prove it, Paul lists eighteen characteristics of the goats–apostate men and women, who have corrupted and will continue to contaminate the church of Christ until He returns.
#2 Watch out for dangerous DISTORTIONS in church attenders
Read verses 2 to 5, “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.” These qualities include internal character and external behavior. They describe attitudes, motives, habits, speech and lifestyle.
These are all bad–no sauce here. This is what Christians are to hate. These are describing just some of the sins Christ died for. These are the actions and heart which deserve an eternity of punishment in Hell. These sins are what Christians are freed from and Christians want to run from. But make certain, you don’t overreact to the actions of a professing believer who manifests one of these sins to a lesser degree–don’t start calling them goats. Don’t say, “BAA-A-A-AD boy. You Vincent Van Goat. You Butthead or Fauny.”
You need to watch for patterns of life–not one-time defiance, not a struggle. Self-justification, not a call for help. A knowing choice, not a current battle. If they boast once, then 1 Peter 4, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” How many times have you boasted? If they are disobedient to parents twice, then Galatians 6, hold them up/help. If they hate good three times, then Matthew 18–go to them privately and confront. If they continue, take two or three to confront them together.
If they still continue, then avoid them, as they’re acting like a goat. These sins are ongoing, not one-time–and ongoing, defiant sin must be confronted. Since the list itself has no apparent interconnection, I will teach them in categories in order to grasp the emphasis and see the distinctions.
First Bad LOVING
Did you notice the repeated mention of loving in verses 2 to 5? “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money 3 unloving, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” Goats do love–but they love self, money and pleasure. Sheep love God, God’s Word, His Church, God’s people and His purposes. But the fake, the tare, the goat will be lovers of self. Lovers of self translates a compound verb from phileō (to have great affection for) combined with the pronoun autos (self).
Phileō is not a wrong kind of loving, and the verb is frequently used positively in the New Testament. In John 16:27, it’s used both of the Father’s love for believers and of the believer’s love for the Son. In the present passage, the kind of love is not evil, but its object is wrong–self. Whenever love for self is raised, love for God and the things of God is lowered. And this kind of misdirected love always creates sinful consequences.
Lucifer’s love of himself and Adam’s and Eve’s love of themselves over the Lord resulted in the universe being corrupted by sin. The most frightening development in the contemporary Church is the wide acceptance of self-love. It is not only allowable, but viewed as a virtue. Today, people value self-esteem, self-worth, self-fulfillment, and positive self-image as strengths instead of sin. Yet every one of you knows self-love is evil. Your children are born with self-love firmly enthroned in their heart, right? You know the ten property laws of the toddler, right? If not, you’ve watched it.
- If I like it, it’s mine
- If it’s in my hand, it’s mine
- If I can take it from you, it’s mine
- If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine
- If it’s mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way
- If I’m building something, all the pieces are mine
- If it looks just like mine, it’s mine
- If I saw it first, it’s mine
- If you’re playing with something and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine
- If it’s broken, it’s yours
Even as kids get older, it’s all about my ball, my doll–it’s all about me. We cater to their needs, ask them what they want. We don’t discipline them for sin, so they never learn there are consequences to violating God’s Word. Children grow up now with their every wish gratified, believing their will should rule and that the world owes them a living. A generation raised without self-discipline or God’s discipline will result in adults who indulge every lust because of self-love.
The sheep love God, love God’s people and love God’s Word. But the goat will love self, plus they will also be, verse 2, “lovers of money.” The single word used in verse 2 for lovers of money is silver lovers–in the last days, men will be “covetous.” Some people carry credit cards and use them as if they were an endless supply of cash. Remember, your use of money is an indicator of your heart. Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Americans owe billions of dollars to creditors–even students are in debt. One survey revealed that college students are fatalistic about the future, but at the same time are determined if they’re going to sink, they are going to sink in style. The phenomenon was likened to being aboard the sinking Titanic while fighting for a first-class cabin. The discipline of working, saving, and paying cash is rarely considered a sensible option. Many collegians expect to start off with a large house, a nice car, a big salary and a boat—and are willing to go into debt to acquire symbols of wealth.
This is all love of money. Part of being a lover of self is to be a lover of money—this term describes a materialistic heart, the craving for earthly possessions. It’s living covetous. Paul is not speaking of the rightful earning and use of money to feed, clothe, and otherwise provide necessities for your families. Second Thessalonians 3:10b, “If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.”
But as Paul explains in his first letter to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:8, “If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” Those who are not content with those essentials and want 1 Timothy 6:9 and 10, “to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
Because Ephesus was a wealthy city, it is likely Paul had in mind specific members of the church there who had “wandered away from the faith” because of their love of money. Sheep don’t live for money, goats do. It is the inordinate desire for money and for the things money represents that has made the health/wealth perverted gospel so popular today. But you don’t have to believe a health/wealth gospel to love money–just spend what you don’t have, live to get things or seek experiences, instead of living for God.
Goats love money–sheep love God. But goats love self, money, and actually live out verse 3, “unloving”. Unloving is a negative adjective from the verb commonly used of family, social, and patriotic love. The noted theologian, Benjamin Warfield, described this love as a quiet and abiding feeling within us which, resting on an object as near to us, recognizes that we are closely bound up with it and takes satisfaction in its recognition.
So to be without this love is to be hardhearted, or as the KJV states it, “without natural affection.” This goat cares nothing for the welfare of those who should be closest to him. His only interest in those closest is what they can do for him. This kind of unloving is to be heartless–literally in Greek, no family affection. Love between parents and their children is natural, but the last days will produce the total disintegration of family love.
Paul envisioned coming generations who will not know the joys of normal family life, normal fatherly and motherly love–divorce, remarriage, abuse, alimony, multiple parents, day care and no relationship. Parents having kids in order to avoid the draft, or gain tax benefits, or government handouts. Some abandon their kids to gangs in the inner city. Overseas there are parents who sell their own children into the sex trade, sweat shops and mafia-type slavery. A sign of the last days is to live without this natural affection.
Sheep love God, but goats love self, money, are without natural affection and are, verse 4, “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” Pleasure is not limited to the desire for comfort, fine food, sexual satisfaction, and other indulgences connected to hedonism. A self-centered person also derives perverse pleasure from malicious gossip, brutality, even treachery. This pleasure seeker finds satisfaction in the misery they inflict on others.
This depraved pleasure is not love more than God, but love rather than God. In other words, the true God has no place at all in the thinking and living of the goat. Those who love pleasure rather than God don’t obey the first or second commandment to love God or others. The Lord made it clear that a person can have only one god–and for the self-lover, self is god. Satan has never had a shortage of false gods with which to tempt man, and by far the most useful to his cause is the god of self-centered pleasure seeking.
Lucifer fell from his exalted and magnificent state in Heaven because he became his own god. And since that time, he has endeavored to entice fallen mankind into the same form of idolatry–be my own god, do my own thing, do what I want. In the last days, men will be “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” Is this you? Instead of reading the Word, you watch a movie. Instead of setting apart Sunday for the Lord, you go to Dismal-land, or attend a concert.
If you love gambling, vacations, recreation, video games and travel, to the point the Lord only receives what is left over in time, money, and affections—then you are a lover of pleasure rather than a lover of God. Sheep love the Lord Jesus first and most. Goats love themselves, money, possessions and pleasure rather than Christ. Those who don’t know Christ but function in the church are goats, tares, lukewarm and unproductive soils. They not only struggle with first, bad loving, but also . . .
Second Sick ARROGANCE
Third Harsh ONSLAUGHTS
Fourth Heart ANIMOSITY, and . . .
Fifth Religious EMPTINESS
And Paul tells Timothy in verse 5, “to avoid them.” Wait, what? “Chris, I am unclear.” Then be here next week. And until then . . .
Take this home
Sheep pursue loving God and others
Sheep don’t love themselves, money, possessions, or pleasure above the Lord, but they do love the Lord above anyone and everything. Sheep love with agape–that’s the love of sacrifice and service for the benefit of another. First John 4:8, “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
First John 4:20, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” If you’re a sheep, you will love the Lord and others. If you’re a goat, you’ll love yourself, money, possessions and pleasure. If someone you just met were to observe your life Monday through Saturday, what would they conclude about you? Would they say you’re a sheep or a goat?
Sheep share with goats and love the goats, but don’t bond with goats. In verse 5, Paul says “avoid such men as these.”
So what do we do when there are people who act like goats in the church? Jude says in verse 21 to 23, “Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on some, who are doubting; 23 save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” Jude calls believers to share the Gospel with the goats, display Christ’s love to the goats, but do not partner, befriend, or invest all your life into the goats.
Sheep KNOW not to fully trust the flock, but KNOW they can fully trust the SHEPHERD
Difficult seasons are coming for you. People you trusted will walk away. Some you thought were sheep will demonstrate that they’re actually goats. Others you thought were in Christ will completely deny Christ altogether. But Christ is a trustworthy shepherd you can depend on and fully trust. John 10:14, 27, “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me . . . 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” Are you trusting Christ more than trusting Christians?
Sheep know they can’t love like Christ, unless they are IN Christ
You can’t love like Christ unless you personally know Christ. You can’t love others like Christ unless Christ loves through you by His Spirit. Have you asked God to save you and give you a new, loving heart? And are you depending on the Spirit through His Word to love through you? Recall that one person who is difficult to love–are you loving your spouse and kids? The fruit of the Spirit is love–sacrificial love is God loving through you. Is He? Let’s pray.