“But understand this that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.
For people will be… (a number of things resulting in)…having the appearance of godliness but denying its power….For among them are those who (are) always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” (Excerpted and cut up from 2 Tim 3:1-7)
Paul writes to Timothy: “Do not be surprised-you are going to see and experience difficulties. These difficulties are because of being “last days” and just as important you will see particular, specific actions and attitudes from people.”
It is a distinction that needs attention today as well has 2,000 years ago.
There is a distinction that I need to remember: The “Last Days” functionally began at the moment of the Ascension. We have been walking in the Last Days ever since.
Knowing this in my head doesn’t mean I readily equate today as “in the Last Days.” In fact I regularly think of “the Last Days” as something that is coming, not as something here–I am bound by being human and time bound instead of eternal but it is true nevertheless.
But I don’t think that is the tenor of what Paul is saying to Timmy (and us).
“Don’t be surprised at what you see, Timmy my boy.” There are 18 specific characteristics that Paul lists to be aware of and then what may be surprising (was to me) that all of these have the possibility of not being outside the local church, but inside: “…rather than lovers of God-having the appearance of godliness (but denying its power).” Additionally Paul writes about folks who are “…always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” (This is written about weak women but I think it certainly applies to all.)
What does this mean to me, the guy in the mirror?
Don’t be unaware of possibilities of sinful behavior all around me-including the guy in the mirror. There is one particular person that I know that can influence me the most to succumb to any temptation: His name is ME.
Be aware of “the appearance of godliness” first and foremost concerning the guy in the mirror. To be an authentic Christian is to lean on God’s Grace and His specific instruments of Grace we can identify. Participation in a small group/life group is one of these instruments of Grace.
Be aware but avoid condemning/condemnation. Condemnation is the province of God’s Justice alone, not ours. As difficult as it can be, remember that Jesus died for “them” as well as for me.
Paul told Timothy: “Pursue godliness-let your progress be seen and testified of.” (paraphrased) Humility, transparency, given to learning with a focus on knowledge with power-a changed life blossoming from the Gospel in all of its beautiful facets, and being able to speak of the Hope that is within you.
Father, today I am wondering if I am playing the “appearance of godliness?” The situation I have addressed and now am facing the consequences of is driving my heart in sad contemplation of whether or not I am honoring You with my decisions and actions. I think I am but am uncomfortable enough to wonder.
Nevertheless, O God, I trust in Your Hand in this and every other aspect of my life today. Help me to seek you fervently all the days of my life. AMEN.