Discerning this Present Time
“Then He (Jesus) also said to the multitudes, ‘Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, “A shower is coming”; and so it is. And when you see the south wind blow, you say, “There will be hot weather”; and there is. Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?” Luke 12: 54-56
It is easy for us to go about our daily routines and be focused mostly on our immediate surroundings and the people we interact with: our family, friends, and coworkers. We will occasionally look at the news and see some national or world events and ponder them for a short time, but then go back to our personal routines. It’s easier for us to be somewhat disconnected from a broader view of life, especially when this broader view could trigger feelings of concern, anxiety, stress or fear.
As Christians, in one sense, it is good for us to be removed from the world, and to not allow ourselves to be too involved emotionally in national or international events, for we are told to be “in this world but not of this world.” And yet, as we can see from the scripture quoted above from the Gospel of Luke, we are admonished to be discerning of the times we are in, which would require us to stop and look at our world from a broader perspective and discern what is happening and how it will affect us.
In the above quoted scripture, Jesus notes that people are able to look at the sky or the earth and determine what will happen next in the near future pertaining to the weather, but that they are not able to look at their surroundings from a spiritual perspective and determine what will come next pertaining to the things of God.
The word “discern” used in this verse means to examine or to scrutinize something. Jesus is telling us that we need to take a break from our daily routines to stop and look discerningly at our surroundings to determine the implications for the near future. We need to understand what is happening now and, based on this present examination, determine what the future holds.
Therefore, I also admonish you to take time to prayerfully seek the Lord so that He will open your eyes to the current situation of our world and our society so that we can see what the near future will bring from a spiritual perspective.
Speaking of a lack of discernment, I am reminded of the situation that existed in the days of Noah when God’s judgment was pending and yet the people were unaware of the time; they were unable to discern that God was about to destroy the entire world by a flood that covered the entire earth. Only Noah and his family were able to escape. I am sure that many people even watched as Noah and his family built the large ark and gathered together animals, and yet these people were still unaware of the time and unable to discern their pending future destruction.
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Matthew 24: 36-39
Not only do we need to learn from the error of the people of Noah’s time who were oblivious to their circumstances and failed to take the time to seek God for the discernment of their time, but we should also recognize that our situation is not much different than theirs. From my personal observation and discernment I have concluded that God’s judgment is pending, much like it was in the time of Noah.
I am aware that there are some Christian leaders and popular speakers who are saying that there will soon be a time of blessing for Christians, and that God will cause a revival in many places around the world. My view of the current circumstances does not align with this assessment. The Bible states that judgment starts in the church with the people of God, so Christians need to be more concerned that they are in no way associated or connected with the things that are bringing the judgment of God upon our current situation. But you must determine the state of our present time for yourself. I again emphasize that you must seek God for yourself and look to His Word to discern the truth for yourself.
I live in the U.S. so I am therefore exposed exclusively to the Western culture as is reflected by the people who live here. Some of my exposure is through the media, although I don’t currently have a TV, but I do have a computer that I use to watch some movies and to read various articles. I am also exposed to opinions from people that I work with, as well as family and friends.
Over the past few decades, I have observed noticeable changes in our society in a few distinct areas, and I can categorize these important areas of concern into 3 categories as follows: Hedonism, materialism, and idolatry. Allow me to explain each.
First, I must clarify that these conditions have been present to some extent in all societies throughout history, but my observation is that a large percentage of people in our culture have embraced these ideas and practices making them a major part of our social fabric.
According to Wikipedia, hedonism is “a school of thought that argues that pleasure and happiness are the primary or most important intrinsic goods and the aim of human life”, and another online dictionary defines it as “the pursuit of or devotion to pleasure, especially to the pleasures of the senses.” It has been my observation that, although there are not a majority of people who are explicitly claiming to be hedonist, there are a large percentage of people in our western culture who have embraced this approach to life, making pleasure and happiness the main focus of life. In our society, people long for and live for various forms of pleasures, whatever they may be: food, drink, sex, music, etc.
An honest look at our culture and the typical mindset and attitude, especially of the younger generations, will support my claim that hedonism is a widespread approach to life. The emphasize on sex in our literature and art, the wide use of drugs and alcohol, the high percentage of obese people, and the overall selfish attitude are the fruit the high level of hedonistic thinking in our society.
To be clear, I am not saying that people should not ever experience happiness or sensual pleasure in their life. The difference here is that people are making it the main goal and focus of their life. It’s what motivates them. They may work hard during the week but they are motivated by and looking forward to the weekend festivities. Also, it is the sensual pleasures that they experience that take a high priority in their lives, and therefore their lives are aligned accordingly. Their moral and ethical standards are established according to this priority, and so it has become apparent that the Judeo-Christian moral standards are rejected. This is very apparent in our current society.
The underlying attitude of this approach to life is an impatience that looks for immediate rewards or gratification in the present rather than looking for a future reward. As Christians, we know that our focus is on the hope of the next life and therefore this hedonistic attitude is diametrically opposed and radically different than the Christian attitude.
“For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,” Philippians 3: 18-20
Closely related to this hedonistic philosophy is a need for, and a high value placed on, material things. Certainly, our society values material things much more than spiritual things. It is possible that in this present time there is more emphasis placed on material items than in any other time throughout history. Certainly the industrial revolution has made it so that there is an abundance of gadgets and appliances that we “can’t live without.”
The United States must be at the top of the list of countries with a focus on material things. We have products shipped from all around the world to us to fill our store shelves. In fact, our entire economy is based on consumption of these material items. I think it is safe to say that this situation is unprecedented in world history.
Consider also the financial system that we function under and that the U.S. has propagated now throughout the world. It’s based on debt and credit. Rather than working hard to save up for the things we need and can afford, we want things immediately, and so we buy them on credit, with most people living beyond what they can afford. This approach is not just being used by individuals, but also by businesses, corporations, and all levels of government. This financial system of debt and credit was not put in place as a result of a desire to help others, nor is it based on some great wisdom or prudence, but rather it was fueled by greed and impatience. Sadly, it seems apparent that it is nearing a point of collapse.
Similar to hedonism, materialism is also a philosophy that is in stark contrast with Christianity:
“Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” 1 Timothy 6: 6-10
Whenever we replace God with someone or something it is idolatry. Idolatry is more encompassing than just setting up a statue and worshiping it. It happens in our minds. In times past people looked to God for protection, safety, as the source of food (bringing rain and sunshine to their crops or causing their livestock to prosper and be free of diseases), as a source of health, and many other things; people looked to God for His blessings upon their lives and the lives of their families and loved ones.
Today, we look to the government or to other man centered or manmade mechanisms for these things. We uphold the scientist, or scientific knowledge, as the source of information and/or guidance regarding our health, safety, sustenance, and well-being. God has been replaced by many things in our current society. We no longer need to look to God for our future since our fears have been removed by our insurance policies or retirement nest egg. We look to science and technology to solve all of our problems such as diseases, food sources, security, protection, and health. We look to the government to solve all of our social issues and as a source of peace and contentment.
In general, our Creator does not have a place in our society. We have removed any mention of Him in our schools or public discourse by claiming a need to separate church and state. This has resulted in a situation where even a philosophy that is based on God’s principles cannot be applied to any public or government discussion.
We would like to think that we are very tolerant of all religions, but in reality, we have taken God out of our social consciousness completely. So for the sake of not offending any other religious people or for the sake of being “fair” to the atheist, we have removed any influence or dependence or reference to our Creator from our social fabric, except for discussions within a “religious organization” or church, which is only a minute part of society. In essence, we have replaced God with other things, and this is idolatry.
And we are without excuse, because we should be honoring God in our society and we should be expressing our thanks and acknowledging Him as the source of all our blessing.
“Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools;” Romans 1: 20-23
You may disagree with me as to the extent of the penetration of these attitudes into our society, but it is undeniable that they are present and that they are held by more than just a small minority of people. It is also undeniable that the trend has been towards an increase in these attitudes. Unless there is a major shift, which I don’t deny is possible but seems unlikely, the trend will continue and could escalate quickly.
From God’s perspective, as a God who holds justice extremely high, it is inevitable that a judgment will be coming upon all those who adhere to these above mentioned attitudes and practices. I am well aware that the mention of God’s judgment or the need to fear God’s wrath is probably the most unpopular and politically incorrect statement that can be made (another fruit of these mindsets) but we must be honest and face the truth.
The Bible also predicts that as we approach the end times, the condition of mankind will worsen.
“But we know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5
As I observe our current surroundings I see a godlessness that is widespread. There may be a superficial facade of wholesomeness and godliness, but looking deeper into the attitude and mindset, as mentioned above, I see things that are far from what conforms to God’s requirements. As a result, we are certainly on the precipice of judgment of some kind, much like those living in the time of Noah. The remedy is to turn completely to God and to allow Him to show you the proper way to think and act.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12: 2
I remind you again that you need not take my word for it, but rather you should seek God on your own and ask for discernment regarding our present time. I am confident that He will show you fully and completely what you need to see and what you need to do in response. Most importantly, you need to be aware and take the time to assess and observe the present time.
Ultimately, we know that the day of the Lord is coming, and for those who are in Christ Jesus, it is the day that we are longing for and hoping for, and what motivates us to live godly lives.
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed. Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.” 2 Peter 3: 10-13