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The Problem Of The Times And How To Meet It

The Problem Of The Times And How To Meet It poster

An address delivered at the Elim Swedish Free Church, Chicago, on Sunday afternoon May 17, 1925.

As I keep in mind that I am speaking to young people, I am impressed by the fact that young people of this day and generation have a more difficult time of it as witnesses for Jesus Christ than the young people of any other generation that I have ever known.

Impressive Facts

Some of you may have read last week the report of the great meeting of chiefs-of-police which was held in the city of New York; and if so, you must have been impressed by the testimony of those leaders in the criminology of the time. You must have been impressed by their testimony when they said that crime is increasing not only here and there in our great cities, but increasing all over the world. What an awful testimony that is in the face of the fact that there are so many people who do not know the Word of God and who are telling us all the time that the world is growing better. The testimony of the Word of God is the very opposite of that. Because the world is growing worse and worse and departing from the living God it becomes more difficult than ever for young people such as you are to stand up against the wickedness of the time, to bear testimony to Jesus Christ in the face of it, and live a separated life from it. What is the value of your testimony to Christ if the testimony of your life does not endorse and back up the testimony of your lips? I want to talk to you about that.

The Problem Presented

I want to talk to you about the problem of the times in which we live and how to meet it. I mean how Christian men and women should meet it. That which I have to say is suggested by the words of the apostle Paul in the second letter to Timothy, that young Christian worker converted under Paul’s ministry, located as a pastor and overseer of the churches in the great city of Ephesus in Asia. Paul, in writing this letter, begins in what we know as the third chapter to say: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.”

When he speaks of the “last days,” I do not understand him to mean the last days of the world, which may be a very long ways off, but I think he means the last day of this age or dispensation in which we live and which, for all we know, may be very near and may be now upon us. If I had time, I would like to talk to you about the difference between those two terms, “The end of the age” and “the end of the world.”

What does this inspired apostle mean by “perilous time”? He goes on to tell us, and as I read this to you slowly and carefully, I would ask you to think and determine for yourself whether there is anything in this description which would indicate that possibly those days are near or that they are even upon us.

“ For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.”

Fulfillment In Our Day

Now tell me, is there anything in this time in which we live and in this city in which we live that answers that description in any degree? I do not know what you think about it, but I know what a good many other people think about it and even some people of the world are expressing themselves about it. You will read what they think about it in some new books that are coming out today on the subject of social progress; you will read what they think about it in some of the magazines and periodicals of the time; you will read what they think about it in some of the editorials in the daily newspapers.

I picked up a newspaper recently—the North American of Philadelphia—in which there was an editorial two columns wide that filled the whole length of the page. It was entitled, “Is our Civilization Declining?” It gave illustration after illustration stressing the fact that our civilization was declining. At the close of the editorial, that secular writer quoted the words of the apostle Paul which I have read to you and practically applied them to the time in which we live.

Now young men and young women—Christian young men and young women—witnesses for our Lord Jesus Christ, here is the problem of the times. How shall we meet it?

The Solution

Thank God, the same inspired writer who describes the times and sets the problem before us tells us how to meet it. He tells us, first of all, that we have a position to maintain. Second, that we have a service to render. And third, that we have a hope to cherish.

First of all, we have a position to maintain. “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But 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.”

What is the position which we are to maintain? Paul says, “Stay right where you are so far as your Christian faith and hope are concerned.”

When he speaks of the “things that thou hast learned,” what does he mean? He tells you in the next verse that they were the things of the Holy Scriptures, the Old and New Testaments.

Notice how this inspired apostle goes out of his way to remind this young man, Timothy, of whom he had learned these things. Of whom had Timothy learned them? The first epistle that Paul writes to him informs us that Timothy had learned these things from his mother and his grandmother. I say to you that better teachers than these no young man or young woman ever had, when their feet are found int eh way of righteousness.

The Purpose Of The Scriptures

This lesson is just as much for us as it was for Timothy in the city of Ephesus. You will observe that Paul does not tell you that the Scriptures can save you. They cannot. Paul is careful to say that the Bible alone cannot save any man. It is rather “to make you wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.” The Bible shows us that we need salvation; it points us to the Lamb of God who alone can give salvation; shows us how to work out our own salvation after we have obtain it. That, in the last particular, is what Paul has in mind here. Timothy was already a saved man when Paul wrote him this letter. He had been saved for years and was now in the ministry. If he had not been a saved man, Paul would not have written him this letter. But now Paul says to this man who is already saved, “Be careful. Continue in the things which thou hast learned and been assured of.”

Every-Day Salvation

In what sense would such a man as Timothy need to be saved? He needed salvation from the very same things that you need salvation. Timothy needed and you and I need every day salvation from the love of self, from the love of money, from pride, from disobedience to parents, from unthankfulness, from unholiness, from unnatural affection, from false accusation, from highmindedness, from the despicable love of pleasure more than the love of God, from the form of godliness which denies the power thereof. Young men and young women, you need this kind of salvation every day in the city of Chicago and there is no way in which you can obtain it except as you continue in the things that you have heard and been assured of.

Let me not pass this without calling your attention to the deep meaning in that word “continue.” I carry about with me some precious utterances from the Word of God and from men of God which I often read for my own inspiration and strengthening in the things of God. One of these concerns the meaning of that word “continue.” It is an extract from the writings of that holy man of God, Bishop Moule. He is calling attention to the sense of this word in the Greek and reminding us that the word “continue” means not merely that we shall hold these things as opinions but that we shall grasp the things of the Holy Scriptures as a living force, that we shall make the revelation concerning God and Christ and redemption, our spiritual atmosphere, and shall be fused with them so that they and we shall be one reality.

You may have your Bible on the mantle, but if you do not read it continually and read it prayerfully and read it in the power of the Holy Ghost, it will be worth nothing to you. If you are going to continue in the Word of God, you must make it the most important thing in your life. You must live in the power of it. If you are to be perfected in Christ, if you are to be delivered from the grievous things of these last days, you must continue in these things of the Holy Scriptures and make them your very life at all times.

A Glowing Hope

Paul goes on to show that we have not only a position to maintain but a service to render, and he concludes by reminding Timothy and us that we have a hope to cherish. What is that hope? He approaches it by saying to the young Christian worker, “Watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.”

This man was now Paul the aged. He was a prisoner in Rome. He wrote this letter with chains upon his wrists. He had been a prisoner in Rome before, but now he was a prisoner in the days of that wicked and despotic emperor, Nero, and he knew the time was short. He knew that before long it would mean for him either to be crucified as his Master was or to have his head cut off. In the face of that, he writes to Timothy and says: “The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, (Not ‘a good fight’ as the King James version puts it, but ‘the good fight’ for there is only one fight to fight). I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”

Blessed Recompense

Think of it—here is the promise of rewards! Sometimes we are afraid to think of rewards because we know how unworthy and sinful we are, but God, in His grace, is not afraid to reveal to us that there is a prize laid up for them that fear Him and serve Him faithfully. This is a personal and individual reward for Paul says, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.” It were as though there were not another being in the universe but God and his servant Paul.

Some of you are thinking that the time of this promise is a long ways off. Not very long. As certainly as we are seated in this sacred edifice today, so certainly shall that Word of God be fulfilled where it is written, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God and it doth not appear what we shall be, but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”

Do you believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is alive? Do you believe He is now the crucified God-Man at the right hand of the majesty on high? Do you believe that He is coming again personally and visibly to set up His kingdom on Earth? Remember that He Himself has said that when He comes again, in the glory of the Father, He shall bring His rewards with Him. Oh, it were worthwhile waiting for, it were worthwhile serving for, it were worthwhile dying for!

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