My first responsibility after my education was a small dairy farming community in central Wisconsin. Everyone in the area was either a dairy farmer [Norwegian] or doing something connected with farming. It was a small, close-knit community and a very secure place to live. These men milked cows twice a day, seven days a week , planted fields, harvested crops, filled their silos in the fall, and they never stopped milking their cows. They came to church on Sundays with the smell of the barn imbedded in the suits, but they were honest hard-working people. I’m not sure if anyone ever locked their doors or worried about their children playing outside. Your neighbor was a friend and could be trusted.

I now live in a world that is vastly different. Fear and anxiety lay close to the surface of most people today. We lock our doors and install our security systems so we can feel safe. What does this mean? What has changed? Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul and ask yourself as you read if you recognize any of the things he is talking about.

“… in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, holding a form of Godliness but denying the power thereof; avoid such as these”. [2 Timothy 3: 1-5]

The Apostle says these conditions will be part of the culture of the “last days”. That phrase is used repeatedly in the Bible to describe culture before the return of Christ. Note what he says, “…in the last days difficult days will come…”. The word “difficult” caries the meaning of “risk”, “fearful” and “anxious”. Those words describe what I see in culture today.

Two of the conditions that Paul mentions in these verses ring a bell in my mind. They are “…lovers of self and lovers of money…”. The two of them go together. He is not talking about money as a means of exchange, but money as the object of life. I am currently reading the biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt was a descendent of a Dutch family that moved to Manhattan when it was call “New Amsterdam”. He became one of America’s wealthiest men by developing a monopoly of all the shipping in and out of News York. He controlled all the rail lines and shipping lanes, so nothing came into or left New York without using Vanderbilts ships or rails. He used every means possible to bully his way to the head the pack and became extremely wealthy, endowing Vanderbilt University with his wealth. He actually built the church and hired the pastor he wanted, to say what he wanted said. That’s the power of money. It can be an intoxicating aphrodisiac. It’s very heady to have the ability to control, not only the market but entire nations. Paul said that will be one of the conditions that will be evident in the “last days. Money, when it becomes our place of worship, leads to selfishness, boastfulness, arrogance and other conditions in the conditions that will be present in the last days.

He then lists 17 characteristics of “..the last days…”. [2 Timothy 3:3-5] I would encourage to open your Bible and consider this list of 17 characteristics, asking yourself if you see them evident in our world today.

Paul then says that this culture “…will hold a form of Godliness, although they deny its power”. The worship of God will be relegated to a meaningless ceremony. The knowledge of God will gradually disappear from our culture and culture itself will order our lives, and the worship of the true God will be neutralized by culture itself. Material things, things we can see, handle and display will be our object of worship.

John Piper teaches that this list of conditions has a “creeping effect”. He gets this from what Paul says; “For among them are those who will enter into households and captivate vulnerable women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of God”. [2 Timothy 3:6-7] I am able to compare this effect we see today with what I mention in the opening of this devotion. I once lived in a very secure culture. Culture now has changed, and it is hard to place a date on this change. It has had a creeping affect on us and will continue to do so. There is a phrase that Paul uses that catches my attention. It says of this culture they will be on a lifelong search for truth. They will be “…ever learning, but never finding…”. The truth that the Apostle is talking about here is not cognitive or academic truth, but revelatory truth. It is not “learned” but rather “discovered”. It is not “out there someplace”, we need not find a Maharishi who will lead us to this truth, but it is an inner revelation that helps understand our world, helps us to be kind rather that cruel, and in which we find salvation and find an eternal home with Jesus Christ. That truth is totally counterculture to what we see on the streets of our nation today.
Paul indicates this travesty, this “creeping” will come to an end. “And just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved minds, rejected as regards the faith. But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all…”. [2 Timothy 3:8-9]

Who are Jannes and Jambres? They are the magicians of Egypt who attempted to duplicate the miracles of Moses, but their trickery came to an end. So those who try to deceive us in this currents generation will come to an end. The return of Christ to this earth will bring an end of all deception and reveal the eternal truth of God.

The issue is, in whom or in what do I place my trust? The Apostle Peter has a word for us. “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat and the earth and its work will be burned up. Since all this will happen, what manner of person ought you to be? [2 Peter 3:10-11]
That’s a question that demands an answer.

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