For several months now, my pastor has been preaching a series called Mature Church. This series goes through all the letters Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus that include instruction on how to correct, guide, cleanse and strengthen the church.
This week we hit up 2 Timothy 3:1… “But take note of this. There will be terrible times in the last days.”
Has it ever occurred to you that the last days is not to come, but is right now? The time between Christ’s death and resurrection and when He returns to reign with His kingdom on a new earth….that time between encompasses the last days. We are in it.
We should expect difficult things! This world has always been sinful, but a downward spiral is still happening. And as we get closer and closer to the end times, living for the kingdom, yet within the culture will become harder and harder.
The beauty in that?
Following Jesus will cost us everything; there will be no more room for hypocrisy and faking a relationship with Christ.
One of the center points that Paul speaks about that defines worldly culture is being a lover of self. As a follower of Christ, I should aim to put Christ first, others second and myself last…but even with such an aim and motivation, it doesn’t always happen. Nevertheless, there are others among us whose lives epitomize worldly, fallen, selfish culture.
So how should we respond?
Stop being shocked at unbelieving culture.
It is what it is and while we shouldn’t accept it, we still have to live among it.
Should we tolerate it? No.
Should we live in contrast to it and shine a light where we can? Yes.
Don’t live in fear
We should not be afraid of losing our culture to immortality. It’s bound to happen. Our hope and identity does not lie within culture, but within the kingdom of God.
Don’t demonize the culture
Running away from fallen cultural practices or condemning them is not going to get us anyway. And beyond that, it would be direct disobedience to the Lord’s call for our lives to be a shining light…a witness…to be in the world, but not of the world.
We have to learn to live in a holy manner within culture.
Culture is a struggle. I know it personally; we all do. Even if one does try to hide, I doubt they will succeed. For who can live life without some influence from culture? No one can. It’s very important to be aware of one’s surrounding culture. Ignorance and naivety are two different things. To make a choice to shield one’s eyes or ears from something tempting or of this world is one thing….to ignore culture and what people are saying or wanting, is to set oneself up for failure. And I don’t mean failure in a material or social sense, I mean failure in being on mission to expand the kingdom of God. For who could ever reach out and build relationships with unbelievers without being able to relate to them somehow?
The word “culture” has made itself a home deep in my heart and it’s exciting to continue to see how God moves my heart toward or away from certain cultural barriers and to watch others respond in the intimidating face of culture as we know it here in America.
So…a challenge: Put yourself in difficult situations and strive for holiness. Holiness does not mean you are righteous or better than others; holiness means to be like God. And as sinful human beings, we will always fall short and never come close. But it’s because of God’s grace and passion He has instilled in us that we strive and strive day after day to be more like Him! Jesus was the ultimate example of a holy life in the midst of perversion. Let us follow His example on a daily basis.
Take yourself out of your own comfort zone and go where you are challenged and have to lean on the Lord’s strength to uphold holy words and actions that bring glory to your Savior. Do as He would have done.