"But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these." - II Timothy 3:1-5
If the apostle Paul's definition is right, we've got to be living in the last days, right? It sounds like he was sitting at a bench at the mall, writing down everything that he saw.
But what hurts me is that Paul wouldn't have to go out into the world to write these characteristics. He wouldn't even have to step outside of the church.
Have you ever said (or thought) anything like these statements?
"I can't believe she's at church today. Who knows what she was doing last night? Her sins are so much worse than mine..."
"I guess I could give my tithe this week...but I really want that new iPhone. I'll start giving to the church after I get what I want."
"I hope everyone heard my solo this morning. That song is perfect for my voice."
"I wish they would stop with the 'fearfully and wonderfully made' routine. Can't they just accept that I hate the person God created me to be?"
"My parents told me not to date him, but if there are other couples there, it's not technically a date..."
"Pizza again?! Every time I help out with the youth ministry, I have to eat pizza. Can't they ever spring for something different?"
"Ugh, why does he have to come to this church? I'm sure God loves him, but that doesn't mean I have to!"
"I know this is compromising a little bit of my sexual purity. But I'm still a virgin, and he really loves me, so it's not that bad."
"Not even God would expect me to forgive her for what she did to me."
"I heard that she got so wasted last weekend that she couldn't even stand up."
"Sure, I'm going to heaven. I'm a good person, and I give money to the poor. As long as I do more good than bad, God smiles on that."
"Scripture? Sure, it's mostly true. But I'm sure they got some of the details wrong. And some verses completely contradict themselves. Men wrote it, so it can't be perfect."
"Why do we always have to sing those hymns? Doesn't our worship pastor know that times have changed? I can't worship to those old songs!"
Wow. When we look at it that way, we Christians don't look near as different from non-Christians as we should. In fact, did you know that when Jesus prayed, he said that the world would hate us? Check out John 17:14-21.
"I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. "As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. "For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. "I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me."
Really let the last part of vs. 21 sink in - "so that th world may believe that You sent me." If others can't see that our lives are different, why would they ever want to make the decision to follow Christ? In college, I actually heard a guy say, "The only difference between me and a Christian is that I sleep in on Sunday mornings."
Since Paul told us the kinds of people to avoid, we can also learn how we should live. In Romans 12:2, Paul instructs us no to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed. Watch what happens if we transform the words Paul wrote about evil men to discover our role as believers in this world:
For Christians should be lovers of others, lovers of servanthood, humble, modest, and Godly, obedient to parents, grateful, holy, loving, and forgiving, encouragers and supporters, with self-control, gentle, with love for what is good, loyal, careful, meek, lovers of God rather than lovers of pleasure, holding to a personal relationship with Christ, proclaiming God's power. Follow men and women such as this.
Do you think the world would notice that Christ made a difference in our lives if they looked like that? Absolutely! And here's the good news - we don't have to do it alone. Galations 2:20 says, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Christ will work THROUGH us. All we need to be is willing.
Let's dare to be different.