The Ways of the Wolf

2 Timothy 3

1 Understand that the last days will be dangerous times. 2 People will be selfish and love money. They will be the kind of people who brag and who are proud. They will slander others, and they will be disobedient to their parents. They will be ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, contrary, and critical. They will be without self-control and brutal, and they won’t love what is good. 4 They will be people who are disloyal, reckless, and conceited. They will love pleasure instead of loving God. 5 They will look like they are religious but deny God’s power. Avoid people like this.

It would be easy for me to take this scripture and use it as a convincer that we are in the last days. Surely all of us can see these things in our world around us. But I have a feeling that Timothy was seeing these things around him as well, and so was Paul, and so did many others who have read these words down through the ages. That is not to discount the warning – surely in the last days it will be dangerous times.

Notice that starting in v2 Paul talks about how people will be, selfish, greedy, braggarts and proud, slanderers, disobedient to parents, and on and on through v 5 where at the end of this verse he says, “Avoid people like this.”

One thing I’ve noticed during the course of my life is that most people, including myself, are easily molded by their surroundings and the people they hang around with. When I was running from my calling I hung around with people who were in alignment with that running. I didn’t hang around with people who would bring me closer to God and get me back on the path because at that time I didn’t want to be on the path. But it goes beyond that.

Hang around with people long enough and you might notice you start talking like them, using some of their catch phrases, eating similar foods, reading similar books or watching similar movies. We become like those we hang around with and like, we mirror those we are in contact with the most.

Depending on who we are around, this could be a good thing or a bad thing. It’s hard sometimes to make the choice to avoid someone. Especially if it’s someone we have grown to like. But Paul tells Timothy, avoid people who have these negative qualities.

Wait a minuite… Aren’t we supposed to minister to people like this? Shouldn’t we try to win them to Christ? Yes! But that doesn’t mean we need to be around them all the time to do so. Sometimes putting distance between yourself and people who are contrary to your spiritual health is nessesary.

I’ve been down the road of “I’m hanging around them so I might be able to witness to them.” And I’ve done that, (witnessed) but I’ve also seen my witness fall on deaf ears as I personally slipped further and further away from the path I should have been on. I see wisdom in Paul’s word here.

Be careful Christian. Yes you are sheep sent in among wolves – so be cunning and remain innocent. Don’t get caught up in the ways of the wolves.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Help me to be an effective witness of your grace and love to those you put in my path. Let me be efficent in modeling a Christlike spirit to those who need Christ in their spirit. Keep me safe and protect me from the influences of people who would bring me into their ways which would be contrarty to a life pleasing to you.

Love Michael

What has been given to you?

Scripture:  1 Timothy 6:20-21

Common English Bible (CEB)

20 Timothy, protect what has been given to you in trust. Avoid godless and pointless discussions and the contradictory claims of so-called “knowledge. 21 When some people adopted this false knowledge, they missed the goal of faith.

   May grace be with you all.

  As I reflect on this scripture today I think back over my life as a Christian.  When I was very young in the faith I ran into a lot of opposition regarding my beliefs.  I had several “study sessions” with people who, although I know had good intentions, basically used scripture to attack everything I had been taught.  The thing that bothered me the most was being told that I had not been baptized in the proper manner and that the method which was used for me was not sufficient enough for me to receive salvation.  I was so unsure and afraid that I hadn’t done the right thing that I ended up having three different baptisms over the course of a year.  I know this goes against the idea of “One Baptism” but I suppose it is what it is.  God was there, I’m sure He understood.

  I continued to struggle like this for several years, it was a back and forth argument on both sides of the fence.  I would go and talk with those whom I respected in the UMC, then back to those with opposing views.  I supposed I played Devil’s Advocate with both sides, bringing up opposing views with each of them and then trying to decide which answers were most acceptable.  It was all very confusing. 

  Even today I continue to struggle with opposing viewpoints and ideas about God, scripture, doctrines and theologies, and I imagine I always will.  The individual points of struggle change as time goes on, and my ideas and beliefs change sometimes to.  For instance, I don’t struggle with my baptism anymore. I feel confident that the first time was all I really needed.  I can go back and look at sermons which I preached early on in my ministry and some of them I couldn’t use today because my thoughts and my faith have changed so much.  Ideas I had early in my life have evolved and I believe that God has given me progressive revelations as I was able to bear it and accept it.

  So what does this have to do with our scripture?  I notice that Paul says “Timothy, protect what has been given to you in trust.” (my emphasis) And I think of what God has given me in trust.  It’s those things that have been revealed to me through my own life experience, through the scripture, through tradition, through reason and through prayer that I must protect.  If you are sincere in your faith, I know that God will reveal Himself to you in the way that you need, and as you are able to understand.

howisit  I guess the question is, “What has been given to you?”  What has God revealed to you through your own life experiences?  It may not be the exact same thing that has been revealed to me, but that doesn’t mean it’s not valid, and it doesn’t mean that what I have been given isn’t valid either.  The trouble we run into is when we start thinking that we are right and therefore everyone else must be wrong.  That’s the way the world sees it.  But God is able to see above and beyond the limited thoughts of the world.  Maybe that’s why Jesus said the two greatest commandments are to love God and love each other.  We may not be able to see eye to eye on every issue, but if we can just love God and each other we will be doing alright.

Prayer:

God of all of us,

Help me to protect what has been given to me through the inspiration and guidance of Your Spirit which is with me always.

Love Michael