In the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good. . . . Having a form of Godliness, but denying the power of it. From such turn away. For of this sort are they that creep into houses and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, ever learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. (2 Tim 3).
So much has happened, so much has happened in the morals, in the behavior of people, not in many generations, just in my lifetime to date, half a lifetime. Look around us and what do we see? We see this horrible disease, AIDS, which we understand comes from what we euphemistically call now ďan alternate lifestyleĒ, or a ďdifferent sexual preferenceĒ. Today soldiers are successful in re-enlisting in the army, having their constitutional rights upheld. Iím not castigating these people, I feel sorry for them, but clearly such behavior is immoral as described in many places in scripture.
We look at Washington, DC. I was startled to read the other day that there had been more casualties, more murders in Washington DC in 1988, than there were in the conflict between the Israelites and Palestinians in the same period of time.
Stuff we see on television, had it been imported from a foreign country when I was a boy, would never have gotten off the boat. The material would have been seized and destroyed, and now the networks and cable vie with each other to play to our basest emotions. You go to the beach today, and I sometimes think people would be better, would look less indecent, if they didnít have on any clothes, as to have on some of the outfits we see today.
A whole issue of Time, or the lead article, was given over to stress in our time. It talked about the fact that despite the fact we have, or think we have, more leisure time than we used to, in fact we have less now, with both husbands and wives working in families. Thereís so much to own, and greed, which we all possess in healthy quantities, is the underlying cause, it seems to me, of this stress. This dissatisfaction which we have with our present state of affairs, being having greater wealth than Solomon in his day. And yet with all this wealth, wealth beyond imagination, we have the terrible situation in the Sudan. People starving to death while politicians are playing with their lives. One hundred million dollar fortunes are a dime a dozen today, and yet the misery of the poor continues unabated. And so on.
My point is this. These may not be the worst times that ever were and people point out that decadent Rome was certainly in the running, and we can look back to the medieval days to see how those in power, the lords, knights and noblemen held sway over the poor serfs, but thatís not my point. Weíre not talking about the relativity of bad times, bad times have always been bad because people have always been bad. But the point is this: do you think youíre not affected by that? Do you think you are not affected by the times in which you find yourself? Think of the things you accept now. I wonít try to detail them. Think of the things you accept now as a matter of course. That would have been an affront to my parents; might have just carried my grandparents right off the globe. Think youíre not tempted?
Paul said, "In the latter days some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies and hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron." In the Emphatic Diaglot, if you read that alone the translation is: ďTheir consciences have been cauterized, the nerves have been killed.Ē Our consciences are weak; the Psalmist said of himself, ďMy steps had well-nigh slippedí. Your steps have well-night slipped, and you donít know it, because youíre slipping n slow motion.
Shakespeare said, ďOne may smile and smile, and still be a villain.Ē And thatís part of the problem we have. So much of the evil, so much of those things we ought to shy away from, are packaged in such an attractive way that we donít see those villainous qualities. Weíre not even aware of them. So I ask you this morning to say to yourself, what are you and what are you supposed to be? This is what youíre supposed to be: "If ye then be risen with Christ. . . When Christ, who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth, fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil desire,, covetousness, which is idolatry." (Col 3) And so on, Iím not going to read it all. "Put on therefore, as the elect of God tender mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering (v.12). . .and let the word of Christ dwell in you richly." Paul said, "Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind." We achieve the state of being a new creature by the renewing of our mind. That is to say, itís a constant thing. Itís not just renewed one time, but itís renewed, and itís renewed, and itís renewed, you have a new mind over and over again.
And isnít that reasonable? I mean, look, I canít even know what Iím supposed to say to you this morning unless I look at the notes I wrote, and I wrote these yesterday. So, you canít read the Bible in 1948 and say, Iíve got all that squared away, or treat it as though it was unessential to a good life. If you can somehow master, get the Bible in your brain, and have it there to call to mind, understand its scope, its concept, and the detail which makes up that scope, then you are not going to have a weak and uninstructed faith. The living of a good life without a foundation of a good doctrine is impossible, just as it is impossible to grow flowers without roots.
This book is supposed to be a divine revelation from God. If in fact thatís what it is, if in fact the Bible is a revelation from God, itís amazing to me that we can ever put it down. And if we really believe that God speaks to us through the Bible, how can we ignore it? What most of us have done is trivialize our lives. Let me give you a personal example. On Thursday of this week I played in a golf tournament. The LPGA women golfers are in town and I had the opportunity to play in the pro/am tournament with a woman pro. And I could hardly sleep the night before, thinking about how I was going to strike the ball and what particular method, of the many methods that I have at my disposal for hitting the ball, and I went out there on Thursday and men were running all around there, just like children, they were all so happy, me included. Do you know I actually hit a golf ball farther on several occasions than this girl? And I expect to play in it next year, but Iím saying to you that those kinds of activities can consume your whole life.
We watch too much TV. A new word describes many of you, Iím sure. Many of you are couch potatoes, you simply get in front of the TV and are unable to turn it off. Getting and spending we lay waste our powers, our powers for good, to do good, they are wasted by getting and spending. And weíre getting and spending at a rate hitherto unknown to mankind. I canít tell you how to live your life, and you canít tell me how to live mine. We are all different, we all have different talents, the Bible says, or as we say today, we all inherit different genes and we come from different environments, so I wouldnít presume to judge you, or tell you with any degree of precision, whether you should or should not watch this or that, or do this or that. Much mischief I think, sometimes, has been caused in doing that, but I can say this to you about faith. For a long time I used to think that faith was invisible. I mean, after all, you may be faithful, I may be faithful, who knows? Only God knows whether you are faithful or not. I donít think thatís true. I think faith is a reaction, not just some sort of invisible state. Faith is the natural reaction that follows from having a lively hope, and thatís not just poetic license on my part, because I took care to look in the concordance and I looked at the word ďfaithĒ as it appears in the Old Testament, and the New Testament both. In almost every instance the underlying Hebrew or Greek word had as a secondary meaning, ?steadfastness, stability, steady.í Well, you can tell whether somebody is steady, on course, dedicated. You know, if youíre going to be a disciple, you have to be disciplined. The word discipline means ďa training which corrects, molds, strengthens, perfectsĒ. If youíre going to be disciplined you have to establish priorities. You are a butcher, a baker or a candlestick maker and a Christian. You have to get the priorities: you are a Christian, then you are a butcher, or baker or candlestick maker, and if you get your priorities straight, itís easy to stay fit physically, Paul uses that figure, stay fit mentally.
He who would be a man must be a nonconformist. Well, you serve a different master is what Iím saying. And if you serve a different master, you have to make decisions. And you have to make those decisions based on who you serve, and what He would have you do, and itís very difficult to do. And oneís life is in constant tension. Do these things, be a disciple now. If you wait too long you become old, disenchanted, disillusioned, cynical. Act. Be a disciple, while you still have the vitality of your youth, or prime of your life. I may have brought this to your attention before, itís a book called The closing of the American Mind by Alan Bloom, a famous American philosopher, teaching at the University of Chicago, and he has something to say that I think will help you in one aspect of your life in being a disciple. He says, (remember heís a great philosopher, not a theologian), great translator of Plato from the original Greek, among other things: "The other fundamental primary learning that has disappeared is religion.. . Real religion and the knowledge of the Bible have diminished to the vanishing point. Attending a church or synagogue, praying at the table were a way of life, inseparable from the moral education that was supposed to be the familyís special responsibility. . . Hardly any homes have any intellectual life whatsoever, let alone one that forms the vital interests of life. Educational TV marks the high tide for the family intellectual life.. .Beyond the fact that parents do not know what they believe, and surely do not have the self confidence to tell their children much more than that they want them to be happy and to fulfill whatever potential they may have. Values are such pallid things, what are they and how are they communicated? The courses in value clarification springing up in schools are supposed to provide models for parents, and get children to talk about abortion, sexism, the arms race, issues the significance of which they cannot possibly understand, such education is little more than propaganda, propaganda that does not work, because the opinions and values arrived at are will-o-the-wisps, insubstantial, without grounds, experience or passions. . .in other words, itís not based on religious teaching."
So, Iím saying to you that one place you can show your discipleship is in our own families. Let there be more talk about morality based on scripture. Let there be more talk about scripture. Let there be hard discussion among family members. In the times of the Judges , a sad and sorry time in the history of Israel, when they were captured and beat upon, and despised by all the nations around them, in those days, says the writer, there was no king in Israel; every man did that which was right in his own eyes. Because there is no king in America, every man does that which is right in his own eyes. Said differently, because there is no grounding in religion in this country, every man does that which is right in his own eyes.
The world has no king today, and every man does that which is right in his own eyes. Do you have a king? Is Christ your king?