In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. - 2Timothy 3: 12-13 (NIV) The time grows short. With each passing day we see more and more horrific stories in the news about the level of evil abounding in this world. Just this week we saw the kidnapping-murder story of young Hannah Anderson. This as the house in Cleveland Ohio which served as a dungeon for several other girls for decades was torn down. Society becomes numb to the increase in depravity; refusing to make the logical connections about the results of a Godless society. This is what happens when man decides what is morally acceptable and supplants God in culture. The key verses today are another glimpse from the Apostle Paul to his protege, Timothy, about the times we will face as the second coming of Christ draws near. These warnings are spread out throughout the Bible even though you wouldn't know it from the pulpits across America. The result is the Body of Christ has become bloated and distracted. Unaware of what lies ahead. Seeking prosperity on earth while preparation for the eternal falls by the wayside. There are several considerations for us as believers from these two short verses. The first is a declarative statement beloved. It is not open for different opinions or interpretations. Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Now, there are a couple of things to unpack here. First of all, not everyone actually wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus. There are far too many Christians who are willing to play church every week. They may know they are playing or not; it matters not when we stand before Christ and find out if He knows us or not. And please, I am not talking about perfection. All men fall short of the glory of God. But there is a stark difference between striving to live a godly life in Christ Jesus and wanting to attend church. One deals with the surface of our lives and the other deals with the inside. Jesus spoke about this once when rebuking the Pharisees: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. - Matthew 23: 27-28 (NIV) This is not preaching at you beloved. This is preaching with you. There are times when I find myself more concerned with the outer appearance than the inner truth. The reality we need to embrace today is that if we work on the inner truth all of the time, then there is no need to be concerned about the outer appearance. Christ will shine through! We cannot continue to have churches falling into the whitewashed tomb category. Entire congregations serving the carnality of church growth theories instead of Christ. But if we truly seek that godly life in Christ Jesus then rest assured that persecution is on the way. I know, that is not very seeker friendly. Whoever told you the Christian life was easy or without sacrifice was lying to you. We are to pick up our cross daily. We are to share in the sufferings of Christ. We are to expect persecution. The second thing to unpack there is that we have no real idea what persecution is. We like to think we do but we live in a country that has religious freedoms. We are allowed to practice our beliefs and share our faith. In many countries today people put their lives on the line by claiming Christ as their Savior. In many countries, Christianity only exists underground. We think persecution is when the ACLU sues to remove the manger from the town square! But real persecution is coming beloved and then we will see who the sheep are and who the goats are. When you see the anti-God movement in this country flourishing and gaining strength, it is not too hard to see persecution is on its way even to America. Are we ready for it? Are we ready to stand for Jesus? How sincere is our faith? The second half of the key verses doesn't see the picture getting any brighter. Evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. There are again, some very interesting things to unpack here. Paul is speaking about people within the church and he differentiates between evildoers and impostors. So as the persecution begins and intensifies, we can expect that things within the church will also go from bad to worse in relation to these two groups of people. Evildoers to me are like the low hanging fruit within the church system. Blatant money profiteers and snake oil salesmen. Blatant fake healers and people who are more concerned about themselves than their congregations. People whose rotten fruit should be easy to spot for anyone with an ounce of discernment. Of course, hundreds of thousands of people seek after these people every week today; which speaks more to the lack of a true Holy Spirit indwelling and thus no ability to discern, than anything else. It is the impostors however that present a more difficult dilemma for the believer. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is! - Matthew 6: 23 (NLT) How deep indeed! How deep is the darkness for those impostors within the church system today. People who not only deceive as the key verses teach but are deceived as well! I have written about prominent wannabe preachers across this country and in many cases, I do not doubt their sincerity but as my pastor likes to say - we can be sincere and sincerely wrong. When 80 percent of churches in this country are run by young gun preachers raised on Rick Warren instead of Warren Wiersbe; we have got a serious problem! The new theology of watered down gospels and transparent sinners prayers have led to congregations filled with goats who are told they are sheep. No emphasis on spiritual warfare. No true move of the Holy Spirit. What exactly do you think will happen when persecution comes upon churches such as that? Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. - 2Thessalonians 2: 1-4 (NKJV) The falling away that is spoken of in prophecy regarding the end times is sure to come from those who face persecution and decide to stay with the world system. That is how so many will receive the mark of the beast willingly. Their leaders will assure them it is OK because they are being deceived as well as deceiving others and we can expect this to only go from bad to worse as the persecution grows. Beloved these things are not designed to scare us but to prepare us. We can all sit around and sing kumbya thinking that nothing bad will ever happen to us but that is not what the Bible teaches us. We can go play church every week, lapping up spoiled spiritual milk or start to feast on the meat of the deeper Word of God. When you see stories such as Hannah Anderson it should serve as a wake up call about the increase in wickedness and the coming end times. Or Newtown. Or Aurora Colorado. Or that mess in Cleveland. He replied, “You know the saying, ‘Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow; red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.’ You know how to interpret the weather signs in the sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the signs of the times! - Matthew 16: 2-3 (NLT) The signs of the times are all around us. With those signs come instruction, warning, and prophecy from the Word of God. We ignore at our own peril. Persecution is coming and the first thing we need to do is make sure we are pursuing a godly life in Christ Jesus and not just playing church. Secondly we need to understand the nature of the persecution is not going to be seeker friendly. There will be no purpose driven persecution. Things will go from bad to worse due to the evildoers and impostors at work in the church today. We can either stand prepared or wonder where we lost everything. Rev. Anthony.