When the supermarket employee at the till politely asks the obligatory social question: ‘How are you today?’ the customer who feels trapped in a routine lifestyle of boredom might reply, ‘The same old same old’ to indicate there’s nothing new in her life.
I smiled on reading the expression near the end of a novel I was enjoying. It reminded me of a related sentence that had grabbed my interest a few pages earlier:
‘There is a curious thing with the passage of time: a calcification of character.’
The Bible on its final page states this as also true of the process of history:
‘And behold, I am coming soon … Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy’ (Revelation 22:7, 11).
… or even more so?
And Paul, in his last inspired writing (sent to Timothy, his junior colleague and trainee in the ministry of the gospel), reckoned this was where world history was headed:
‘In the last days … evil people and imposters will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived’ (2 Timothy 3:1, 13).
Inevitable or reversible?
Paul spells out the details of the world’s calcification and then the Christian answer.
* Uglier and uglier! (2 Timothy 3:1-9)
‘Don’t be naïve. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck up, profane, … dog-eat-dog, … cynical, … ruthless, addicted to lust and allergic to God’ (2 Timothy 3:1-5 The Message).
These characters may presume to be ‘spiritual’ and even ‘religious’ (‘having the appearance of godliness but denying its power’, verse 2 Timothy 3:5), but their ‘discipleship’ is merely a matter of intellectual theory (‘always learning and never able to arrive at the knowledge of the truth’, verse 2 Timothy 3:7).
* Better and still better (verses 2 Timothy 3:10-17, The Message)
Paul advocates a very different kind of learning and training:
‘You’ve been a good apprentice to me, a part of my teaching, my manner of life, direction, faith, steadiness, love, patience’ in the ‘troubles’ and ‘sufferings’ (2 Timothy 3:10) due to persecution (2 Timothy 3:11-13). (Do I have mentors/a mentor with such a commendable character?)
‘But don’t let it faze you. Stick with what you learned and believe, sure of the integrity of your teachers [ your mother, grandmother, 2 Timothy 1:5, and Paul]. There’s nothing like the Word of God for showing you the way of salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another showing us the truth [in three practical aspects:]
- exposing our rebellion, (In what areas am I deficient?)
- correcting our mistakes, (What are mine and how will I address them?)
- training us to live God’s way. (What progress am I making as Jesus’ disciple?)
Through the Word we are put together and shaped for the tasks God has for us.’ (What tasks am I called to undertake? And how best can I be shaped for them?)