If we want to know how to live somewhere we need to understand the context and the culture in which we live. If you go to China to eat a meal, always leave something on your plate, because to clear your plate shames your host as it says the meal wasn’t satisfying. In South Korea everyone has to wait to start eating until the oldest person at the table has taken their first bite. To eat before then is shameful. Understanding your context and the culture matters, and not just in terms of manners and customs.
2 Timothy 3v1 Paul writes “There will be terrible times in the last days.” The last days are the time between Christ’s ascension and his return in glory. They are the days Timothy lived in and the days we live in. So what are they like? What’s the context in which we live following Jesus? (2-9)Is shocking isn’t it? It paints a bleak picture of life in Ephesus. And it’s more shocking when you realise that isn’t just out there but some of it has crept into the church with the false teachers. (4)Sums them up as lovers of pleasure not God. They have something that looks a bit like godliness but which lacks power to transform(5). It glitters but it’s not gold. It’s a good fake but is fake. They learn but they don’t learn the truth, they teach but are opposed to God’s truth(7). And they’re ultimately rejected by God(8-9).
As disciples we’re called to live life following Jesus. But we do so in the context of a spiritual battle. The world seeks to mould us and our thinking, to capture our hearts, to pressure us into it’s way of living not Jesus way. And false teachers, even in the church, call us to follow them not Jesus.
It’s against that backdrop that Paul writes. He doesn’t want to Timothy or the disciples in Ephesus to be led away from Jesus. To stop following Jesus. To follow false teachers or the world around them. They have left that to follow Jesus.
We need to recognise the context of our discipleship. It’s easy for us to dismiss Ephesus as a dangerous place to be a disciple but assume we’re safe. The world wants to disciple us. We’re surrounded with teaching all the time; training us, seeking to coerce us, to mould us and shape us. The world teaches us it’s worldview in every book we read, film we watch, or box set we binge on. Their stories are full of truth claims, seeking to shape our thoughts on right and wrong what is acceptable and what isn’t. Our schools, colleges, universities and workplaces teach values and seek to shape us in its values and norms. We need to work hard to seeing them, at being aware of their messages.
Add to that the false teaching that’s more readily available than ever before. I’m not talking about those we may disagree on over secondary issues. But false teaching denies the nature of God, the gospel, humanity, sin and salvation. It pedals a prosperity gospel, or legalism, downplays the call to holiness, or empties the gospel of its power by denying who Jesus is or what he’s done to atone for our sin. And all of it available on our radio or TV.We need to recognise that our discipleship is a battle. To follow Jesus isn’t easy. We can’t be on autopilot. We will need to know the truth so we can spot the fakes. But how do we do that? More on that in tomorrows post.
But for now how aware are you of your culture and what it is teaching, how it is seeking to disciple you? What is it teaching you about truth? About value? About humanity? Marriage? Worth? Love? Treasure? We need to be aware of the culture we live in a nd how easily it shapes us.
We also need to flee from false teaching not play around with it.