Time, like water, is fluid. Today it seems to stand still. I‘m sitting at the sponge docks in Tarpon Springs enjoying lunch and watching a sentinel pelican preening on the piling. It‘s another idyllic moment here in Florida. And then a startling blast from a truck horn breaks the spell. In the midst of what some would consider to be a paradise, my mind flashes with the thought: we‘re living in really dangerous times.
Now before you break out in a chorus of “Golly, Ya think…” hear me out. I have never tried to hide the fact that my faith in the Creator of all things (God) shapes my world view. When the headline news starts to sound like excerpts from the biblical books of Ezekiel, Daniel or Revelation, I can‘t help but take notice.
Perhaps you‘ve heard of this guy named Paul the Apostle. He was born Saul around 1 AD in Tarsus, a city in Asia Minor. His letters account for almost half the written content of the New Testament (13 books) and they are the major source of Christian theology. Paul was a zealous Jew who came to realize that Jesus was the long awaited Liberator of mankind (The Messiah). He 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 student, and later his trusted companion, co-worker and fellow traveler. Timothy’s name appears as the co-author of the New Testament letters known as, 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon. It is believed that in the year 64 AD, Paul left Timothy at the ancient city of Ephesus, to govern a local church as its Pastor. In a letter to Timothy, Paul wrote these cautionary words,
1-5Don’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 in describing how mankind (void of God‘s grace) would continue down the path of degradation. The way he defines the characteristics of human beings (especially as we draw close to the end of the world as we know it) is unnerving. I particularly like that descriptor “allergic to God”. I don‘t know what makes some people more irritable, a nasty allergy season or bringing up God in a conversation. Like it or not, Paul nailed it. We are living in the predicted “difficult times”. Religion to some is little more than appearance. It‘s amazing how many people assume the form of pious belief when it suits their purposes but their lifestyle nullifies its validity.
“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.” – C.S. Lewis
How many characteristics from that list could have described you at one time or another? Thank God for His grace! Without divine favor we too would be the people that Paul warned Timothy to avoid. (I suppose that would make us the people our parents warned us about.) Seriously, even though we still behave badly on occasion, a true Christian is being transformed into the image of Jesus a little more each day by the power that is at work within us.
Times are getting worse
10-13You’ve been a good apprentice to me, a part of my teaching, my manner of life, direction, faith, steadiness, love, patience, troubles, sufferings suffering along with me in all the grief I had to put up with in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. And you also well know that God rescued me! Anyone who wants to live all out for Christ is in for a lot of trouble; there’s no getting around it. Unscrupulous con men will continue to exploit the faith. They’re as deceived as the people they lead astray. As long as they are out there, things can only get worse. (2 Timothy 3:10-13 MSG)
Paul was always down for the fight. He epitomizes the real deal. This unassuming follower of Jesus 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, many 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. Can anyone say “Pray cloths for sale?” Their misrepresentation of God helps to worsen the public perception of the Christian faith. Don‘t let that discourage you. Listen again to what Paul went on to tell Timothy,
14-17…Stick with what you learned and believed, sure of the integrity of your teachers why, you took in the sacred Scriptures with your mother’s milk! There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us. (2 Timothy 3:14-17 MSG)
Wow. Through the (written) Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us. The Truth (which is another term for God and His Word) defines who really has it together. If we are (as the scriptures declare) but lumps of clay on the potter‘s wheel; God is the Master Potter and He is shaping our earthen vessels for a specific purpose.
Never regret a day in your life. Good days give you happiness and bad days give you experience. Both are essential. – Anonymous
The world will continue to grow more and more dangerous. People will go right on rejecting the creator of all things (GOD). In fact, God will facilitate their ultimate delusional state. Say what? Absolutely. Here is what the scriptures have to say on that subject,
5-12 I expect you remember now how I talked about this when I was with you. You will probably also remember how I used to talk about a “restraining power” which would operate until the time should come for the emergence of this evil man (anti-christ). Evil is already insidiously at work but its activities are restricted until what I have called the “restraining power” (of God) is removed. When that happens the lawless man will be plainly seen though the truth of the Lord Jesus spells his doom, and the radiance of the coming of the Lord Jesus will be his utter destruction. The lawless man is produced by the spirit of evil and armed with all the force, wonders and signs that falsehood can devise. To those involved in this dying world he will come with evil‘s undiluted power to deceive, for they have refused to love the truth which could have saved them. God sends upon them, therefore, the full force of evil‘s delusion, so that they put their faith in an utter fraud and meet the inevitable judgment of all who have refused to believe the truth and who have made evil their play-fellow. (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 – J.B. PHILLIPS)
The Lawless Man? Evil Spirits? Falsified signs and wonders? Deluded by evil? Yes, and a whole lot more. It‘s going to get really bad here on planet earth. But we‘ll save that discussion for another day.
For you are with a better captain, you are with a true sailor, a true leader; You are sailing with Christ, and He is always sure to lead us home. – T.B. LaBerge
You can be spared the wrath that is to come. You can live now and in eternity with the true champion of Truth and Justice. His name is Jesus and as I have told you before, He is the doorway through which we enter and the road upon which we find our way back home. Follow Jesus and you‘re on the path that will lead you to genuine life here on earth and, after death, eternity with the Creator of all things. (GOD). Follow the ways of this present darkness and, well, you‘re lost, delusional and on your own. Your call. But don‘t say I didn‘t warn you.
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