|Lovers of Pleasures
By Scarlett Stough
|Were you shocked
by the Super Bowl half-time show? Were you taken by surprise? We shouldn’t
be surprised. A document that is nearly 2000 years old warned us, “There
will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves,
lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to parents,
ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control,
not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of
pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying
its power. Have nothing to do with them.” (II Timothy 3:1-5 (Italicized
phrases are the author’s emphasis)
Everywhere we look in society, vile behavior has muscled its way into all aspects of our American culture. Christians are either bullied into silence, or ignored, or drowned out. Worse yet are the messages that are distorting the truth about who God is. One popular television program characterizes God as so enigmatic that we can have no idea what he wants us to do or how we ought to do it. Academics, historians, scholars, philosophers, teachers, and activists have worked to destroy the validity of the Bible which is the Word from God to humanity.
Even some theologians teach that the law of God is so harsh and difficult that he had to abolish it. Locally, a Pastor was fired because he dared preach a sermon to a wealthy congregation about greed and giving. This too was predicted: “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (II Timothy 4:3-4)
God is angry at humanity because we refuse to acknowledge his authority and we rebel against his instructions to do right. He is angry that truth is suppressed by people who want to openly do vile, wicked, evil, unrighteous things.The message in the Bible is up-to-date.
News programs, newspapers, books, Internet sites, movies, and television programs are filled with stories of “wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice.” (Romans 1:29-30 NIV) God has warned us that “evil men and imposters will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (II Timothy 3:13)
But all is not lost. The Apostle Paul encouraged Timothy with these words: “The Lord knows those who are his;” and “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” (II Timothy 2:19)
We are not being graded on a curve. Even though “clearly, no one is justified before God by the law” (Galatians 3:11), only those who allow God to purify their attitude, thinking and conduct will be allowed entrance into the Holy City. (Revelation 22:12-17)
The divide between those who do wrong, becoming vile, and those who do right, becoming holy, is growing wider and deeper. “Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.” (Revelation 22:11)
Each person has a limited life span in which to choose which side of that divide we want to stand. We can not straddle it, especially as it continues to widen. Pressure is increasing to tolerate immoral behavior. We must not cave in to preserve our popularity with friends, acquaintances, or even family. This does not mean we hate the person who does the wrong or vile act or mistreat them in any way. But we must not stop speaking the truth of God. We must not give tacit approval to avoid conflict.
How do we respond?
Paul gave an example in his letter to the Corinthian church. He exhorted: “I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked man from among you.’” (II Corinthians 5:9-13 italicized words are author’s emphasis)
Christians have an obligation to live a moral life and to teach the word of God. We have an obligation to speak out clearly and boldly about what God says is right and wrong. We do not have an obligation to enforce the morality of God on those outside the church who are rejecting it. We have an obligation to model right behavior even when words are not appropriate. Nagging your spouse or your co-worker won’t accomplish anything except create an atmosphere of hostility.
Even though God is angry about wrong doing, remember that the reason he is angry flows out of his love and concern for the men, women, and children who inhabit this planet. His deepest desire is to draw every person into his family where they will receive genuine, lasting, accepting love. God became a man and suffered the same experiences we all suffer. The Creator allowed himself to be executed in place of those he created. But only those who acknowledge him as Lord and Savior, trusting in his faithfulness, can receive the life he offers. Saving faith is faith that acknowledges that God is Sovereign as well as merciful and compassionate.
How can they believe unless they hear? How can they hear unless someone tells them—or at least shows them? The Apostle Peter gave instructions to us about how, what, and why we tell others about faith in God:
“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit….” (I Peter 3:15-18 italics author’s emphasis)We must never condone sin. But we must also remember that every single one of us was on death row and were guilty as charged. God through Jesus pardoned us and gave us the opportunity to start a new life. Let us do and teach what is right so that others have an opportunity for a new life.