In last Sunday’s message at Shelby Crossings, our subject was protecting our families from the attacks on it from our modern world. Our Scripture was from 2 Timothy 3, which warns of “terrible times” in the last days, as the apostle Paul worded it. It’s not hard to read the descriptive list of terms and traits that describe the time that Paul was pointing to and see what looks like a reflection in a mirror of our current American culture.
I realize that preacher-types like myself have forever railed against the godless culture they lived it, as they called their flocks to come out from among them and be separate. And most often, they have exaggerated the struggle a bit, usually exclaiming that times have never been worse. A study of church history–or even just a glance outside of an Americo-centric mindset to see life around our world–tells you that’s not always the case.
It’s bad, but it’s been bad before no doubt, even in America. Hedonism, materialism, racism, obscenity, licentiousness and general depravity and ungodliness have been around as long as humanity, and to borrow from King Solomon, “there’s nothing new under the sun.” These days, our perception of the world has much to do with our 24/7 exposure to what’s going on in our world, through social media and endless cycle of sensationalism in our news that brings out the worst in what we see every day.
Still, with that in mind–and at the risk of sounding like just another predictable preacher–I would suggest that “the times, they are a-changin” like never before. A few principles and terms from the world of physics help to describe the rapid progression of sinfulness in our culture: acceleration (“the velocity of change”) and momentum (“the strength of force that something has when it is moving that allows it to grow stronger or faster as time passes”). The decline in our culture is accelerating faster every day, and the momentum behind it often seem overwhelming.
Seminary president Al Mohler wrote this in his weekly briefing this week about our current culture: “One metric to watch very closely in terms of cultural and social change around us is how fast it takes for something to be considered absolutely unthinkable, then ludicrous, then improbable, and then possible, and then of course, actual.”
As an application of that metric, Mohler referenced the sequence of the recent transgender bathroom debate, which quickly progressed from “absolutely unthinkable” to “actual,” culminating in an edict from our federal government requiring that every public educational institution in America provide transgender restrooms and to fail to do so would risks federal financial support. That issue, in particular, was not even on our radar a few months ago and was hardly being discussed outside the radical circles of academia. Then, within a matter of weeks, it was thrust into our public discussion and stunning decisions were made with pressure for all to conform, lest we be blamed for bigotry the equivalent of “Jim Crow racism.”
That’s just one of many examples of the rapid decline of our culture, which may be evidence that we are living in what Paul described as “the last days.” I used the illustration on Sunday of water draining out of a bathtub (which always fascinated me as a kid) and how it seems to pick up pace at the end as the downward spiral gets tighter and the last bit of water escapes the tub. Likewise, it seems that we are getting closer to “going down the drain” as a society, and the velocity of change can leave us with our head-spinning.
Which takes us back to the 2 Timothy 3 passage. Paul warned about such times–they may sometimes be shocking, but they are not unexpected–but he also gave clear instructions for believers to stay the course, stick together, and stand firm on our convictions, grounded in God’s holy word, even if they are now “counter-cultural” to the world we live in.
Be assured, our sovereign God is not surprised at the recent developments, and our role as the church to be a positive witness and influence on our culture has not changed. Let us pray for our world, and let us walk in obedience to His word, trusting that Jesus has not descended the throne and that He is working out His plan through us, through all of this.
So, once again this week, let me end by saying hang in there. God has a plan, even in these “final days” and we’re a part of it. Be encouraged, and be obedient, where you are, while He has us here. I’m praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.