But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. Here Paul is writing to Timothy (2Ti. 3:1) to take special note of the times. Times that have arrived and those still ahead. As Barnes notes (no pun intended), “times of danger, or persecution, and of trial.” I have heard others teach that such reference can be described as “tight times”… as in times where evil seems to have us in a corner… pressing, overwhelming, suffocating. In spite of this, Paul tells us to “continue in what” we have learned. It’s as if he says, “Look at how I have handled this and do likewise (v. 10).” This is easier said than done. To know the times we live in and not give in to the temptation to be reconciled to defeat is hard.
I have been assisting with teaching a bible study attended by mostly elderly folks for about twenty years. I take turns with other pastors from various denominations along with other lay persons in presenting teachings each Tuesday morning. At one point, most of those attending were my seniors by twenty-plus years. My time with these men (and a few women) has been a great blessing. I have learned so much from them just listening to their life experiences. Most are from the “greatest generation.” Joe (now passed) was thirty-eight when WWII started, the “old man” on his Navy destroyer. Sam was a teenager when captured by the Germans after his bomber was shot down over Germany on his very first mission. Orbie was wounded twice in the Battle of the Bulge. I could almost feel his joy when Jack described the troop train he was on in Germany stopping and the officers announcing the end of the war in Europe. These are just a few of the many “stories” I have had the honor of spending time with on most Tuesday mornings. And not only the “war stories.” Dan has shared many of the highs and lows of pastoring in the UMC while Earl has lent insight into his life growing up in Chattanooga, his time in the dairy business and so on. I mention these men because I have seen them often shake their heads in sadness over the times we are now living in. They have witnessed first-hand the stunning transformation of a society. Indeed they have seen the outcast become orthodox.
Outcast: One that has been excluded from a society or system, a pariah.
Orthodox: adhering to what is commonly accepted
All of us who are Christians were outcasts. We were excluded from fellowship with God because of sin. Once excluded but now included by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. God has always hated what kept us separated from Him… sin. One reason God hates sin is that it damages fellowship with His highest and most precious creation… us. Sin destroys life and God is all about life. God really hates sin.
Another way to look at sin is that it is behavior that ultimately destroys. God knows this but we sometimes too easily forget. God hates what destroys us. There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end therein is death (Pr. 14:12; 16:25). The bible teaches us that we should hate what God hates. To fear the Lord is to hate evil (Pr. 8:13a). Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil (Ro. 12:9a). Hate is a word easily understood. There is little variation in its meaning or application. Hate is extreme, defined in the NT as “to utterly despise.” One can’t hate a little bit. To utterly despise, however, can’t even begin to capture how much God hates sin. Just as nothing in our inventory of expression or experience can truly describe God’s love for us. His emotions are so far beyond us.
If God so hates sin and wants us, as much as we are able, to hate sin, we truly find ourselves in “tight times.” In the span of less than four decades, we have seen behavior that has historically been outcast become orthodox. What has universally been unacceptable become not only acceptable but celebrated. Indeed, many “call evil good and good evil (Isa. 5:20). It is easy to understand how those who have witnessed such a massive shift in national character could become downcast. Not only are they witnesses to this incredible moral decay, they are subjected to ridicule and isolation should they not “go along.” In more and more cases, those that hate sin have become the “haters.”
Although there are many issues that illustrate the outcast becoming orthodox, here are three. Each one represents fruit from the same tree, immorality.
From Outcast to Orthodox
Fornication: Sexual intercourse outside of marriage is now not only “accepted” in our society, it is the preferred approach to pre-married behavior. The most recent Gallup poll reports 60% of Americans approve of pre-marital sex. In 1969, the number was 33%. Only 28% of those over 65 approve (imagine what the % would be for those over 80!). It would be difficult to find a television show or movie that does not present fornication as normal and acceptable. Indeed, we have reached the place where, “everyone’s doing it.”
1 Corinthians 6:9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral (fornicators) nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders
Abortion: What do we do with all these “unwanted” babies! Duke Nukem was ahead of his time when he said, “Kill’em all!” 55,000,000 and counting. A heretofore unknown Texas politician recently became the darling of the national media after making an extended, impassioned speech before the Texas statehouse in favor of unrestricted abortion. Though a tidal wave of medical/scientific understanding has reinforced the notion that life in the womb should be protected, the 1973 opinion of seven ill-advised Supreme Court justices still holds sway.
PRO 6:16 There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,
PRO 24:11 Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. 12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?
Homosexuality: Just this week, Disney announced contributions to The Boy Scouts of America would be suspended due to their disallowance of homosexual men as leaders within scouting. The simple quotation of 1 Co. 6:9 resulted in an extremely popular TV show being suspended until the backlash from the network’s customers forced its reinstatement. The President has for some time refused to allow the enforcement by the Federal Government of any law regarding the non-recognition of same-sex marriage. As I write this, it is fair to say that virtually every institution in American society (Education, Government, Business, Media, Entertainment, etc.) supports the proposition that homosexual behavior is acceptable. Much of the momentum for the advancement of the homosexual agenda is found in America’s clergy. A recent poll of Millennials (under age 34) found that a third of those who had abandoned their Christian faith did so due to the negative teaching in the Church regarding homosexuality. Indeed, to contend that homosexual behavior is sinful today is to be way outside of the mainstream.
These are just three examples of how society has changed in “the blink of an eye.” The havoc such changes have brought to our culture become more evident with each passing day, month and year. Behavior that a very short time ago was “outcast” has become “orthodox.” But again, the Apostle Paul gives good advice. Keep praying, preaching, teaching, witnessing and believing God that there is still hope.