The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. –
I caught my reflection in the water just now. I’m sitting at a favorite haunt tucked away at the sponge docks in Tarpon Springs, Florida. My “office” for today is a hi-top table perched at water’s edge. I’m thankful for yet another tranquil moment here on the bayou.
Staring at the mangroves in the distance, my mind wandered back in time to the happy-go-lucky days of youth. I saw my daddy, both annoyed and amused. Mother had just given me an earful (again) for yet another adolescent “faux pas” which had greatly distressed her. “That was irresponsible. What’s a matter with you? It’s a dangerous world out there and you can’t afford to be stupid,” she said. As that distant memory slowly melted into the present, I thought to myself, “Compared to the standards of today, mom, my behavior was nearly virtuous.”
If you are a regular reader then you already know that I am rather transparent about my faith in God. Biblical reality shapes my world view. I’m far from perfect and certainly not clairvoyant, just an ol’ sinner made safe by his Creator’s grace. But, when the headline news starts to sound like excerpts from the scriptural texts of Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah or Revelation, I can’t help but take notice. Friends, we’re living in perilous times. The world’s gone stark raving mad. Now, before you dismiss me with a loud , “ya think…” please hear me out.
I will assume that most of you are familiar with a man named Paul from the Bible’s Newer Testament. At the risk of being repetitious, here’s some background for the newbies: He was born Saul around 1 AD in Tarsus, a city in ancient Asia Minor. His compiled letters account for almost half the written content of the Bible’s New Testament (13 of the 27 books) and they are the major source of orthodox Christian theology. Paul was initially a zealous Jew who hated those who followed the way of the Nazarene. But through a series of incredible events, he came to recognize that Jesus was indeed the long awaited Liberator (The Messiah).
Paul had a close friend named Timothy. Let me tell you a little about him. Timothy also lived in the first century AD. He became Paul’s ardent student, and later his trusted companion, co-worker and fellow traveler. In fact, Timothy’s name appears as coauthor of the Newer Testament letters known as, 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon. It is believed that in about the year 64 AD, Paul left Timothy at an ancient Greek city called Ephesus to oversee a local assembly of the faithful. In a letter to Timothy, Paul wrote these predictive and cautionary statements:
1-5 “Don’t be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5 MSG)
Paul does not mince words when describing (prophetically) how mankind would continue down a path of decadence. The way he defines the aberrant characteristics of humanity is unnerving. I particularly like how the idiomatic translation of the New Testament known as The Message describes those who have gone astray as being “allergic to God.” I don’t know what makes some people more irritable, a political discussion or bringing up the reality of a Supernatural God in conversation. Like it or not, Paul nailed it. We are surely living in the predicted difficult times when for many just about anything goes and faith in God is little more than a pretense.
This is true religion, to approve what God approves, to hate what he hates, and to delight in what delights him.” – Charles Hodge
Truthfully, there are many characteristics from that list in 2 Timothy chapter 3 which could have described my own life at one time or another. Without divine intervention, I would still be one of the people that Paul warned Timothy to avoid. As they say, if not for the Grace of God…
Listen, we all behave badly on occasion. Debauchery doesn’t take much practice. That’s why a true follower of the Liberator Jesus is ever working toward a transformation that enables them to reflect the image of our Creator a little more each day.
Paul tells Timothy to expect persecution as a sincere believer in God. He then warns him about the wicked and deceitful, because they are deluded and they delude others.
12-13 Persecution is inevitable for those who are determined to live really Christian lives, while wicked and deceitful men will go from bad to worse, deluding others and deluding themselves.” (2 Timothy 3:12-13 PHILLIPS)
Paul then reminds Timothy about the Divine inspiration and power of the scriptures which can have a profound and lasting influence on a person’s development.
14 “But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and it is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:14, 16-17)
If we think of ourselves as but a lump of clay on a potter’s wheel, then God as the Master sculpture uses His truth to prepare and equip us to do His work. Scriptural Truth is what defines and molds us.
A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire most.” – Thomas Merton
This current world system will continue to grow more and more dangerous and deceived. People will go right on rejecting the Creator of all things (GOD) and His Liberator. In fact, the Almighty will eventually expedite mankind’s ultimate delusional state. Say what? Absolutely. It begins when an imposter savior – an anti-Christ – arrives on the world scene. Here is what the scriptures have to say on that subject,
9 “A man of sin will come as Satan’s tool, full of satanic power, and will trick everyone with strange demonstrations, and will do great miracles. 10 He will completely fool those who are on their way to hell because they have said no to the Truth; they have refused to believe it and love it and let it save them, 11 so God will allow them to believe lies with all their hearts, 12 and all of them will be justly judged for believing falsehood, refusing the Truth, and enjoying their sins.” (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 – TLB)
Pay attention now: when someone hears the truth but habitually refuses to obey it, they leave themselves wide-open to every lie and deception disseminated in the midst of humanity. Paul told the Jesus followers living in ancient Rome that as a result of mankind’s foolishness and their arrogant disdain for the ways of the Almighty, people will subsequently:
28 “…give up on God and will not even acknowledge him, so, God will give them up to doing everything their evil minds can think of.”
“Although they know of God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they will not only continue to do these very things, but also approve of others who practice them” (Romans 1:28, 32).
Yes indeed, over time it’s going to get really bad on this earth. But, here’s some good news; you can be spared the worse of what is to come. How does a life of certainty (now and ever after) that is personally guaranteed by the only legitimate champion of truth and justice sound to you?
I’d like you to meet the one who is called Jesus. Really get to know Him. I have told you a few things about Him before. He claims to be the doorway through which we must pass in order to enter a new dimension of living. He also referred to himself as the road upon which mankind must travel to make our way back where we belong. Follow Jesus and you’re on the path of a “real life” here on earth. When you die, now that’s the best part. You get to spend timelessness with the Creator of all things. (GOD). On the other hand, you could just keep drifting along with the tide of troubled waters. That’s up to you. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Now if you’ll excuse me, my grouper and romaine salad awaits. Thank you God for those who have heard your voice today; May they all have ears to hear and eyes to see. And, thank you for my food. Amen.
Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher and a rabid Coastal Junkie ®
For additional information write to: Coastal Life Ministries, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656