But they were not the only ones. Paul writes to Timothy and also gives a list of absolute sins (2 Tim. 3:1-6). Following that list he characterizes some people as “…always learning” (2 Tim. 3:7). Is that a problem? Yes, it is a directional problem. It is not one like the absolute thing that Paul describes as sin but it is sin. “Ever learning but never able to come to the knowledge of truth.” When that is true, which direction are they going? This is a principle that has been in place before Paul’s list and produced all these other things. The direction is away from the truth. “Never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
Therefore, “… as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these resist the truth…” (vs. 8). These were people in Moses time who resisted him. Which direction will someone end up who resists the truth? There are people who do not think they have a problem in the world; who think they are cultivating a significant virtue. But, they are hard-headed. They come and sit down, bow their neck and say, “Try to change me. Prove it to me.” They have a smile on their face and a gleam in their eye, “You can’t convince me.” When a person starts with that disposition, what direction will they go? It is not difficult to understand those people will not grow up into Christ. They will not come to be sensitive spiritual people who change their lives in conformity to the will of God. People who resist the truth will be not be successful Christians. It is a direction away from truth and growing up into Christ.
In fact, “… they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all…” (vs.9). The direction they pursue is progressive. “They will grow worse and worse…” (vs. 13). These are evil men. Not simply because they have done some things that are wrong, but because of the direction they pursue.
It is not uncommon for people to read through Corinthians and hear someone say, “I do not understand why Paul would write a letter and address these people and call them the church of God in Corinth. They had all their problems.” Read the 2nd letter to the Corinthians. While absolute sins are answered in the first letter, in the 2nd letter you find out something different about their direction. They were pagans who were converted out of gross evils of idolatry. But, when Paul sends his instruction he finds these are people who accept the truth. That was his concern. These are people who comply with the truth. They began to zealously pursue their problems. They have serious problems but which direction are they going? The direction makes all the difference in the world. While there are terrible, absolute sins, Paul does not charge them with directional sins. If Paul had addressed all of the absolute charges and then said, “These are people who wax worse and worse, resist the truth,” they would not have long been called the church of God at Corinth.
The do’s and don’ts of the Bible are simple enough to understand; maybe not as easy to practice. We like things in do’s and don’ts. However, not all God’s commands come to us in that manner. Some are directional in nature. The expectation of God may not be as simple as, “Are we obeying all the do’s and don’ts?” There may need to be some thought given as to which direction we are walking. How would that look?
Consider, here is a directional command, “Be anxious for nothing….” (Phil. 4: 6). How do we go about not worrying and being fretful in life? Where is the worry button we can turn off? That is not an absolute command. The same thing is found in Matthew 6:25-ff. We are told the same One who cares for lillies of the field and sparrows cares for us. Therefore, seek first the kingdom of God (vs. 33). Do we have a place where we say, “That is right, I will do that today.” We can decide that is what we want but, don’t be surprised it takes a while. It deals with our attitude and a capacity to follow through. It is a direction we are going. “Be anxious for nothing,” that is the ideal. As our faith in the Lord increases, cares and anxiety for things of this world decrease. We need time for faith to grow so we will be anxious for nothing. First, the direction must be right (Phil. 4:6).
Again, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things” (Phil. 4:8). Think about these things. Where is our think button? We can turn on the TV; we know where the button is. How do we just turn “on” things? When we get to where our mind is filled with “these things” we will not have to worry about where a person’s life is headed. He is talking about the direction we take. “Meditate on these things…” He points in a direction for the survival of the spirituality of people.
Further, “love one another” (1 John 3:23). Love is not just a feeling of tenderness and sentimentality but it is prizing and treasuring one another. It is a command to treasure our brethren. We start out understanding the Lord wants us to value our brethren as He valued them. We say because He wants that, we also want to see the worth of our brethren. But some are hard to like and hard to value. We understand the value of the soul but this is more involved. Treasure your brethren, especially those who are not obviously the most likeable people. Even value those who seem to be the thorn in the flesh rather than the rose in the garden. It is easy to treasure a rose but hard to appreciate the thorns. How do we get to where we appreciate them? Not by some button we punch. There are some things that are absolute that would belong such as “Give a cup of cold water.” But of those who are not loveable notice the Lord tells us both the direction and proceeding acts: pray, do good, bless (Matt. 5:44-45).
Absolute commands are much easier to deal with than those that are directional. Those which are directional point outward. They describe the path we walk.
By Rickie Jenkins