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 Gill Dawg. It’s a little tiki joint tucked away on the Cotee river in Port Richey, Florida. My “office” for the day is a table perched at water’s edge. Yeah, it’s another one of those tranquil moments here in Florida.
Staring at the mangroves along the riverbank, my mind wandered to the days of unconcerned youth. I saw my daddy, both annoyed and amused. Mother had just given me an earful (again) for yet another adolescent “faux pas” which has 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. I laughed out loud as that distant memory slowly melted into the present. “Compared to today, mom”, I thought, “My behavior was virtuous.”
If you are a regular reader then you already know that I am rather transparent about my faith in the Architect of all things (God). Biblical reality shapes my world view. I’m far from perfect and certainly not clairvoyant, just a sinner made safe by the Creator’s grace. But when the headline news starts to sound like excerpts from scriptural books like Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah or Revelation, I can’t help but take notice. Friends, we’re living in exceptionally difficult times. Okay, before you break out in a chorus of “No scitan Sherlock, ya think…” please hear me out.
I assume that most of you are familiar with this guy 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 of mankind (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 words,
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)
Okay, so Paul does not mince words when describing how mankind (void of God’s amazing grace) would simply continue down the path of decadence. The way he defines the characteristics of lost humanity (especially as we draw closer to the end of the era of mankind) is unnerving. I particularly like his characterization of those gone astray as “allergic to God”. I don’t know what makes some people more irritable, political discussion or bringing up a Supernatural being in a conversation. Like it or not, Paul nailed it. We are living in the predicted “difficult times” when for many, Religion is little more than a pretense. It’s amazing how easily a person can assume the outward form of pious belief when it suits a purpose and yet their overall lifestyle nullifies any validity of true spirituality.
This is true religion, to approve what God approves, to hate what he hates, and to delight in what delights him.” – Charles Hodge
Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder how many characteristics from that list in 2 Timothy chapter 3 could have described us at one time or another. Thank God for His undeserved favor (grace)! Without divine intervention we too would be the people that Paul warned Timothy to avoid. Listen, we all still behave badly on occasion, but a true follower of the Liberator Jesus is being transformed into the image of our Creator a little more each day by that otherworldly influence that is at work within us.
Paul had more words of wisdom for young Timothy,
10-11a “But you, Timothy, have known intimately both what I have taught and how I lived. My purpose and my faith are no secrets to you. You saw my endurance and love and patience as I met all those persecutions and difficulties at Antioch, Iconium and Lystra.
11b-13 And you know how the Lord brought me safely through them all. 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 3:10-13 PHILLIPS)
This once Pharisaical man was always down for the good fight. He epitomizes the real deal. As an unassuming follower of Jesus, he understood what it truly means to live a life that respects and honors the Creator of all things (GOD). He also knew how easy it is to deceive people who are naive (sadly, even many of today’s Christians, it seems), and who are openly searching for meaning in life. Paul warns of the fraudulent “con men” for a reason. They gain your confidence and then exploit your trust. Their misrepresentation of God helps to worsen the public perception of the Liberator Jesus. Don’t let that discourage you.
Listen now to what Paul went on to tell Timothy,
14 “But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. 15 You have been taught the Holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and 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 3:14-17)
Wow. Scriptural Truth defines us. If we are but a lump of clay on a potter’s wheel, then God as the Master potter uses His truth to prepare and equip us to do His work. The Almighty is shaping our earthen vessels for a specific purpose.
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
It’s inescapable; 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, it’s going to get really – really – bad here on spaceship earth. But, here’s some good news; you can be spared the worse of what is to come – the wrath of an angry Sovereign. 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 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 we 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 currents, following the ways of this present darkness and, well, you’ll remain lost, delusional and on your own. Your call. 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 rabbid Coastal Junkie ®
For additional information write to: Coastal Life Ministries, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656