On this day that I write these words, I found myself in a very melancholy mood at the weekly pastoral staff prayer gathering. Conversation around the table featured a couple of items of behavior in the current culture that I simply cannot relate to at all – items that struck me as antithetical to the Christian life and leaking across appropriate lines that separate the markings of a follower of Christ versus the mere stuff of this world.
I find myself more and more out of touch with the ebb and flow of what is popular and valued – things esteemed often for reasons I simply cannot imagine. I fear being old and disconnected, especially in an era that seems to more quickly than ever disregard loyalties to the tried and true, turning rather with an A.D.D. sort of bored disinterest in favor of anything that is young and new. Exterior excitement certainly trumps internal substance.
I feel like a Rolex in a world where the iWatch unveiling has essentially doomed me and my Scriptural substance values system to the back corner of the old socks drawer in the bedroom dresser … good for memories, but not exciting enough for where life is going.
In some fraction, I helped to change the Christian church world by jumping from the traditional structures of my youth and being part of the leading edge toward “contemporary” modalities. The preaching and teaching component at that time did not change regarding the value, authority, and perfection of God’s Word … though it is true that my generation of communicators pressed to not just teach what the Bible said to the original audience and the theology inherent with it, but to go the next step and flesh out the practical applications for a modern world.
But after us came a new wave of exciting communicators who used the Scriptures as a launching point to talk about applications that were not necessarily always supported by the original teaching and intent. It is like laying a foundation for a three-bedroom ranch house, but then building a larger contemporary structure with multiple levels of stone walls, heavy timbers, and glass atriums and overhanging balconies. It was beautiful to look at for a while, but eventually the foundation gave way, and great was the fall thereof!
In the last month, several prominent faces of externally successful church ministry around the country have had more than a few structural faults exposed. It was inevitable when the foundation – the framework – was not appropriately valued.
It may seem like this is new and unique to our times, but it is not. It has been a recurrent problem dating back to the early church, to the days of Paul, and even to the challenges faced by Moses in Israel. And so the Apostle Paul wrote to encourage and instruct his younger disciple in the faith – Randy … ah, oops … no, it was Timothy – yeah, that’s the ticket …
3:1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7 always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. 9 But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.
Wow, those first five verses really do sound like a description of our present age – self-centered and self-focused people who cunningly build empires around themselves, looking like something, claiming to be something. It was like two characters named Jannes and Jambres – who are not biblical names, but rather referred to a very common and well-known Jewish legend about two of Pharaoh’s magicians who opposed Moses. They looked really good for a while, but eventually the smoke and mirrors caught up with them, as they did not possess substance.
Paul instructs Timothy to not go in this direction, but to remember and follow a different model – one that was given to him by Paul – a model of enduring faithfulness built upon the framework of Scripture …
10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The fact is that the faithful life of serving Christ is not going to be easy. Paul suffered greatly and was even stoned and presumed dead, but he recovered and walked back into Lystra to finish his sermon! There is going to be opposition both from those who hate the faith, and difficulties from others who are impostors within the walls. The need is to stay faithful to the Scriptures. God’s Word is the foundation that will stand. It is perfect in every detail and timelessly profitable in any situation.
The Scriptures fully equip a person who knows what they teach to address any and all contingencies. But to be equipped, one has to know what they say. One has to make the Bible and the study of it to be a lifelong passion and pursuit. It is not enough to get some general ideas and run with them toward your own desired application.
The Bible is a framework in a world gone crazy, and truly we live in such a world.