For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their desires; 2 Timothy 4:3
Tickled – Has the time come when church members only want to hear what pleases their sensibilities? Have we stopped listening to God’s heart of compassion, His demand for holiness, His distress over the lost and His unwavering expectation of sacrifice? Unfortunately, all the evidence seems to say, “Yes.”
You know the statistics. What happens among Christians (so-called) is simply a mirror-image of what is happening in the world. In an effort to be relevant, Christians are no longer different. We have the same rate of divorce, the same kinds of addictions, the same family disintegrations, the same career obsessions, the same views on justice, education and politics as our cultural icons. Universally hated, systematically ridiculed, evangelicals have turned to the theology of conformity in an effort to be accepted. We eat the same, drive the same, talk the same, walk the same, play the same as any number of “good, moral” non-believers. Today, the church is just an institutionalized advertisement for proper manners and correct cultural roles. Our ears have been tickled until they are raw from scratching.
Knetho is the Greek verb for itching, scratching, scraping and tickling. All those images fit. We had an itch to make God into our success genie. We scratched that itch until we arrived at the idea that Christians should be models of worldly power and prestige. We scraped and clawed our way into political and economic influence. And we are now tickled pink. We made it. We can proudly drive a Mercedes, own a vacation home, enjoy a luxury hotel and fit right in on the golf course – while the rest of the world can quite literally go to hell.
It was so subtle. First we were taught that charity begins at home. Then we were given instructions that God loves to shower us with material blessings. Then we stop talking about sin. Then we adopted theological nationalism (you know – being a “good American” stuff). Finally, we gave in to our desires for glory (and left behind the “take up your cross” verses).
Paul anticipated this collapse. Actually, it is a constant truth of every generation. I can’t pass along salvation to the next generation. Neither can I pass along the commitment to discipleship. That’s what’s missing. I am quite sure that God doesn’t care one bit about your jet ski, your car, your house or your IRA. I mean that He doesn’t care if you have them or if you don’t. What you possess is not the issue. Why you possess them is critical. A disciple knows that the way of the cross is hard. It demands foregoing what I legitimately could have in order to reflect the heart of a God Who gives. Motivation is everything. If I have in order everything to preserve myself and my life, how am I exhibiting dependence? If I have everything in order to achieve success, how am I demonstrating sacrifice? If I have everything in order to be accepted, how am I proclaiming His holiness?
In this world, you can be tickled to death.