But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.2 Timothy 3:1-5 NIV
When reading the first four verses of this passage, it would be tempting to think that Paul was describing our current culture. And there is certainly a strong resemblance between these verses and today’s daily newscast. But then you get to the fifth verse and realize that Paul was not describing the culture at large, but rather people within the body of believers.
The Form of Godliness
These people have a form of godliness; pretending to be something that they are not. They are the proverbial wolves in sheep’s clothing; looking only to profit themselves. They have the outward appearance of godliness, but deny its power, not allowing the Holy Spirit to change them and produce his fruit within them (Gal. 5:22-23).
Have nothing to do with people like this. Paul seems to be primarily addressing con artists who are intentionally using a mask of godliness for their own gain. But there are many others we can encounter within the church today who are only pretending to be godly. We should be careful of them.
And, most importantly, we need to ensure that this is not true in our own lives. Allow the Holy Spirit to work within us so that the godliness that shows on the outside is coming from a changed life, and not a mask we put on when we go to church. Don’t just have a form of godliness. Be godly.