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November 7 – The More People Change, The More They Stay The Same

Maybe you had one of “those” mothers too. You know the kind of mother I mean. One that quoted aphorisms to explain why you should or shouldn’t do certain things. “Why do I need to clean my room?” “Because cleanliness is next to godliness.” “Why can’t I have that toy?” “What, you think money grows on trees?” (Me, refusing to do the work my mom told me to do.) Mom: “Don’t make me come over there. (Us – fighting in the car.) Mom: “Don’t make me turn this car around!” “Mom, can I go over to Bob’s house.” “No honey. You don’t want to be friends with him; birds of a feather flock together.”

Moms had a sixth sense about other kids. They knew which ones were ok to hang with, and which ones to avoid. There was truth in mom’s commentary on other kids. They knew that if you hung around with bad kids, you tended to imitate them. Oh, I know the argument, I’ve used it in fact, about being a good influence on those wild kids, but it rarely works that way. Paul played “mom” to Timothy as he talked about the kinds of people in the church to avoid. “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5 NIV)

I don’t know if that list of problems/sins people will have in the last days is exhaustive, but it is exhausting. And, it’s frightening when you compare it to the world we live in today. I could spend the rest of the year camping out on all those sins. Paul described those behaviors as indicative of the last days. He was writing almost 2000 years ago, and those indications existed. We still have problems with people who are lovers of themselves and lovers of pleasure, rather than lovers of God. The key to solving those problems of the human condition lies not in focusing on getting rid of sin, but rather on learning to love God better. So many have a problem with that form of solution because godliness in their eyes means that people are following their list of do’s and don’ts. Using that type of list is making our lives legalistic. Legalism denies the power of God; it denies the grace of God. The power of God is found in His grace. If I can clean my life up well enough that God will forgive me, He wouldn’t need to forgive me. Rather than focusing on my sins, though, the best way for me to do right is to gain the grace of God. For me, I’ve found that I experience His grace when spend time with Him. Now, make no mistake about this: Paul is talking about “religious” people there, not those outside the faith. He tells Timothy to have nothing to do with people who engage in that behavior and deny God’s grace.

The more people change, the more they stay the same. That’s another old adage most of us remember hearing as we grew up. We think that people are getting better as we advance in society. We think our world is so much better than the world of the first century. Then, we realize that, based on that list of God-denying behavior that Paul posted, we haven’t changed that much. We don’t use the phrase, “lovers of self” so much as we use, instead, the power phrase: “Looking out for number 1.” What we do the same, and more of it even, is trying to change ourselves. The more we try, the less likely we are to change. We’ll continue in our sins until God changes us through His grace. When we seek to do it ourselves, we’re denying the power of God. Today, relax in the grace of God. Cease your striving, Stop the worrying, and let God take control so you can experience the joy of life in Him.

Lord, I try so hard to change so that I can please You, and I always fail. Mold me to be like You through Your grace.


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