“But know this: Hard times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people”. – 2 Timothy 3:1–5
Sound familiar? Look at any headline, watch any newscast. Look at your own family. Or better yet, look in the mirror. Chances are you’re going to see several of these if you’re honest enough to admit it. For anyone who chooses to argue humanity is much more sophisticated than those who lived hundreds or thousands of years ago, this is my rebuttal. Written by Paul almost 2000 years ago. From where I stand, it doesn’t look like much has changed, at least in the areas where it counts.
The real issue is we’ve chosen to focus on the symptoms and are ignoring the underlying problem. This isn’t a problem of society, or western civilization, or patriarchal oppression, or any of the other hot button issues that dominate most headlines and newscasts. The problem is a spiritual one.
We’ve been lied to. We’ve been convinced it’s all about us and what makes us happy. It’s all about us being free to decide what’s ‘truth’ and making our own rules by which we live. In order to show how ‘tolerant’ we are we’ve lowered our standards and expectations for ourselves and each other to almost nonexistent. Live and let live; you don’t judge me, and I won’t judge you.
What we’ve done is settled. It’s what happens when we become our own standard. Whatever makes me happy, whatever makes me feel good, whatever ‘works for me’. We pursue stuff that doesn’t last, we engage in relationships that are superficial and dissolve when they no longer meet our needs, and we spend our lives chasing the next thing to make us feel good. It’s a life that never satisfies, never fulfills, and very often destroys.
There’s a part of us that will always seek for something higher, something to worship, someone who’s worthy of our love and devotion. It’s what I’ve heard referred to as a “God-shaped hole” that exists within us. It’s the result of being created in the image of God as described in Genesis 2. It’s the place where Satan makes his direct attack. You can be your own God; the god in you. It’s where he plants the lie, the one that haunts all of mankind. It’s a lie because we’re never the ones in charge; he is. He deceives us into thinking we run our own lives while he holds the other end of our chain. Eventually he tightens that chain and the lie disappears. Then we begin to see the real truth; we’re slaves, and our master hates us, wants to destroy us.
But it doesn’t change the fact we are all God’s creations, each unique but with that common factor: we all carry His image. He gives us the choice to obey or reject him. When sin entered the world we were alienated from him but it didn’t change His love for us. He still pursues us but never takes our choice away. He addressed our sin and alienation by sending Jesus Christ to die so that both may be covered. He asks us to surrender our wills and our ‘right’ to ourselves. But here’s the difference: under Satan, we are slaves. Surrender to God makes us His children, heirs of his grace and promise to be with him forever. We are his servants as well, but once we empty ourselves of trying to be in control He fills us with His spirit who empowers us to become what he wants us to be.
When we give ourselves to Jesus Christ we no longer have to settle for the artificial or superficial, the temporary fix, the pale imitation, or anything else the world tries to tell us we should pursue. Jesus not only came to die for our sins but for so much more.
I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance. (John 10:10).
Jesus gives us back the ability to exhibit the image of God that’s built into each of us. He tells us to be holy just as God is holy; he tells us to love one another and our enemies as well. He tells us to serve one another, because the servant of all is the greatest in His kingdom. We look at that list and think, “I can’t do those things”, and we’re right. On our own we can’t, at least on a sustained basis. But God never commands us to do something without giving us the tools and abilities necessary to complete the task, sometimes even doing things which we can’t do ourselves. And that’s life in abundance. It’s where genuine peace, joy, and contentment are found.
God sets higher expectations because they reflect who He is, and He has the power to help us live up to them if we’ll let him. Don’t sell yourself short; don’t settle for the low expectations and cheap imitations this world offers. God wants to give you an abundant life that will last through eternity.