“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come, for men shall be lovers of their own selves...; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” 2 Timothy 3:1–5
There is no doubt that we are living in the days spoken of by Paul to Timothy—perilous times—when men are and do all the things described by him as indicative of the “last days”. It is clear that he wrote these words because he recognised that the condition he described would not be restricted to the world outside but would also affect the members of the Body of Christ. Many feel the daily pressure of apathy, complacency, temptation and doubt and faith is sometimes dim and direction vague. There is always the danger of becoming merely a nominal “church-going” community and there is very little challenge these days to such people. Everyone is entitled to do things their own way: to have their own religion, life-style or behaviour patterns. This kind of thinking can infiltrate our ranks so that truth becomes relative and less important. Right actions are directly related to our conviction and belief in right doctrine. A right and Godly way of life cannot proceed from a wrong or unsound belief.
What is the antidote to this perilous state of affairs? The problems outlined are merely symptoms of a far deeper and more deadly “disease”. The true indication of the disease is found in Paul’s words that “men shall be lovers of their own selves”. In other words, selfishness is the root cause of all departure from the Truth. All the other symptoms described by the Apostle—covetousness, boastfulness, pride, blasphemy, disobedience, thanklessness and so on—are all the outworking of a frame of mind which puts “self” first. Paul identifies these people as loving pleasure more than God; always learning but never coming to a fuller knowledge and discernment (Gk epignosis) of the Truth and therefore without judgment (“reprobate”) in matters concerning the Faith.
In the case of the beloved Apostle he was able to direct attention to the example of his own life— firstly to his doctrine which was according to truth sincerely believed and which produced a manner of life, purpose and conviction of a Godly kind. In order that Timothy, as well as readers living at the close of the twentieth century, may be of that same disposition, Paul exhorts us to “continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus…” (2 Tim 3:15).
Our lives need to be God-centred not selfcentred: we should have a sincere conviction and commitment to the Truth springing from a fuller knowledge of the things we hear and learn. Our ecclesias in this part of the world have been greatly blessed and we are without excuse. For many years now, there has been an abundance of study classes, study notes and study aids not always readily available to people in other places and cultures. This issue of The Lampstand contains stimulating articles by several brethren and a sister who are not in such circumstances but who graphically describe their situation and their labours in the service of the Master. Paul also endured persecution and hardship—“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution”. Our brethren and sisters in these places highly esteem the works of our elder brethren which have to be translated, or else they struggle through with the English, with dictionaries and so on. We have the opportunity at any time to avail ourselves of this transforming knowledge (which is unto life eternal!), but oftentimes we do not rightly value a thing that is easily accessible and familiar. This year is 150 years since the commencement of the writing of Elpis Israel: our Combined Weekend (see notice in this issue) will centre around the material contained in the three sections of this book which is still one of the best (perhaps the best) Bible study aids we have in our community. The only way in which an individual can be transformed from a self-centred man to a God-centred man—from a carnal mind to a spiritual mind, from walking in darkness to walking in light—is by the Word of God daily entering into his mind, convincing him of its truth and causing him to think like God. Such men and women will ultimately be partakers of Divine nature and form part of that Divine family which will “fill the earth when perfected to the entire exclusion of flesh and blood”.