Read 2 Timothy 3
Focus on verses 1-5
As history moves forward, humanity collectively dreams of how the advancements of science, medicine and technology are moving us closer to a utopian society where every person is healthy, happy and free to enjoy life as they please for as long as they want. It is a pleasant optimistic dream, however, it is not reality. As we compare current events to history, there are a few places where life seems to be easier than it was a hundred years ago. The average life expectancy in some of the more developed nations has risen. The standard of living in the more advanced nations is typically higher than those of poorer nations, however, diseases still spread, people still die, cultures still clash and hatred has not been eradicated. It was just a few days ago that I heard a radio talk show host discussing modern day slavery announce that as much as we would like to think that slavery has been abolished, there are more humans enslaved in the human trafficking trade today than ever before in history. The brutality of extremist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram is beyond shocking as they seek to exterminate people who refuse to submit to their specific form of radical Islam, and the flood of refugees seeking to escape this brutality apparently have no place to go.
Rather than moving toward a utopian society of global peace and harmony, it seems the we are careening ever faster in the opposite direction. In today’s reading we discover that this should not be a surprise to those of us who believe and follow Jesus.
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. (v. 1-5)
I find this to be an amazingly accurate description of our current world, not only in those cultures which have minimal Christian influence, but alarmingly also among some cultures that claim to have significant Christian influence.
This is where the defining of what it means to be Christian becomes important. When Jesus prayed for those who would follow Him in John 17 He prayed that we would be “one as He and the Father are One” and that the world would know that God send Jesus by the way those who follow Jesus love one another. In other words, unity and love despite our differences is what defines the difference between those who genuinely follow and obey Jesus, and those who only pay lip service to Him. Jesus also said, “Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends”. Jesus not only said that – He modeled it.
The difference between those who belong to the world and those who belong to Christ is not difficult to discern. The world’s values serve the self – it’s all about me and what I want. The values of the Christ follower serves Jesus – it’s all about Him and what He wants. Ironically, there is more to gain for myself by serving Christ than there is by abandoning Christ to serve myself. That’s what I find surprising…much more so than the fact that it seems the world is on its way to hell in hand basket.