“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:12-13).
How can we differentiate between the godly and ungodly; the true from the imposter? The Bible speaks of many ways; too many to quote or cite here, but one scripture, in particular, was brought to my attention. “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:12-13). The same gentle and gracious Jesus who people frequently point out as having dined with sinners and tax collectors, in order to justify willfully, and unrepentantly, pressing further and further in sin, is the same Jesus who called the Pharisees “a brood of vipers”. He is the same Jesus who will return one day to judge the living and the dead.
“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). I shudder to think of anyone, knowingly or unknowingly, being among the ranks of unbelievers, or those whom have believed in vain (1 Corinthians 15:1-2), as I have no doubt they run the theological and ideological gamut. And now I find myself with a fresh appreciation of what Paul was writing about in Romans 8:5-8: “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.”
“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people 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” (2 Timothy 4:1-4). What a dreadful day it will be for all those who purposefully stumble others, with their false testimony, often doing so in the name of the Lord! Are they really all that different from those who the Pharisees bribed, or whose false testimony they procured, through some other means, in order to justify crucifying Jesus? Are they really all that different from Judas Iscariot? Heck, by all accounts, Simon Magnus appeared to have become a follower of Christ, at first. But there’s more to Jesus Christ than what we might be accustomed to reading on the side of a coffee mug, or finding in a feel-good, inspirational meme. There is a reason why Jesus’ opponents were often so angered, by Him, they gnashed their teeth; many of the same opponents who ultimately had Jesus nailed to a cross. There is a reason why the world hated Him then, and why that same world hates Him today. How is it that the enemy has so deceived us into believing that promoting a false messiah, an idol, could ever be an act of love?
“The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). So what are we, who believe, to do, in light of such terrible opposition? We endure evil patiently (2 Timothy 2:23-25), as we press toward the prize, for which we have been called heavenward (1 Corinthians 9:24; Philippians 3:14). We go on delighting in, and proclaiming, the truth, while avoiding foolish and quarrelsome arguments (1 Corinthians 13:6; Ephesians 4:25; 2 Timothy 2:23; Titus 3:9). We give thanks in every circumstance and rejoice; we pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). We put on the full armor of God, so that we can take our stand against the god of this world (Ephesians 6:11), and we produce fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8). For those who truly live in Christ, we know that we must also live as He lived (1 John 2:6), even though living as He lived puts us at odds with this world.
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