3 Incredible Things You Can Do to Reflect Christ in Dark Times

3 Incredible Things You Can Do to Reflect Christ in Dark Times

“But 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).

Many Christians believe we are currently living through the very last of the Last Days (aka The End of the World As We Know It). And those paying attention to the nightly news, ranting on social media, or the culture war raging around us would likely point to Paul’s prophecy of 2 Timothy 3 as proof of that belief.

These verses describe the end of this age using the phrase perilous times – meaning dangerous, tense, tumultuous, emotionally difficult times. These are times dominated by a “me-centric” humanity: spiritually bankrupt, morally twisted, and lacking self-discipline.

Call me crazy, but that sounds spot on to me; people today are simply in love with themselves!

But being in love with is quite different than loving oneself, which is entirely Scriptural:

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).

Everyone should love themselves. It’s the second greatest commandment out of the lips of Jesus — second only to loving God. And it implies that I can’t love you properly unless I love me as well! That is, the way I love me directly affects how I love, treat, and respect you.

If I’m not happy with me, content, at peace and secure in myself, I will project my insecurities onto you, and be jealous of you, disloyal, harsh and unforgiving, unkind, envious and inconsiderate toward you. Because, if I don’t love me, I simply can’t love you either. And how I treat you is a reflection of me, more than it is of you.

When you are in love with yourself, like when you are in love with someone else, you become excessively fond, attracted, infatuated with and self-consumed.

This word is literally describing a worship of one’s self.

In self-worship, every situation encountered is first filtered through how does this affect me? 

It is not a matter of fairness or justice, not mercy, nor right or wrong, and not what God says in Scripture, but is entirely based on the question: what is best for me? 

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We Are God’s Representatives

Man wearing a silver cross necklace

For those of us truly committed to Christ, we must realize we are His image bearers and have a great responsibility to represent Him truthfully in this hour. We must resolve to be disciples who remain unspotted from the world, and people who rise above the rhetoric and outrageous behavior. We must stand and be the restraining force against a world teetering on the precipice of insanity.

It means we represent not a political party, but our Savior Jesus Christ. We promote the agenda of the life-changing Gospel to world that Jesus loves and died for. As Peter wrote:

“But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for He called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).

We are chosen by God to bear His image in this hour; we’re hand-picked sons and daughters, out of all the people and generations who have ever lived and walked on this planet. We were created to be alive at this very moment in time. You could say we were born to triumph in such a time as this.

“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place” (2 Corinthians 2:14).

We are destined to be God’s triumphant Church. We are not going to be victims of what is happening in society, but rather the one’s called to enforce the victory of Christ through prayer and action, and to share it with others.

The word “triumph” is a military term that describes a parade designed to honor and celebrate a military commander who victoriously returned home from battle. It meant that the military leader had conquered the enemy completely, and plundered the weapons, wealth and treasures of his opponent.

In the Bible, Hebrews chapter 11 is often called the Hall of Faith, because it remembers the great triumphs that the saints of old accomplished for the Lord. I think that during these perilous times, whether we are truly at the end of it all, or just passing through a rough patch, we need to think of ourselves also as Hall of Faith contenders, doing great things for God in spite of the incredible darkness surrounding us. Because our triumph won’t necessarily be easy:

“And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12).

If we are to triumph, we must align ourselves with the character of God and what He is doing in the world. We protect our hearts by focusing on loving that which God loves and Jesus died for, as we seek to love others as ourselves. But just how do we do this?

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1. Get Your Eyes Off Yourself

man looking at his reflection in a mirror on the ground

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

Imagine if we all valued each other above ourselves – people we like and those we don’t, people we hang with and people we avoid. It would take strong and secure people, people who love themselves as they should, in order to value others like God instructs.

How do we begin to become those people? Ask yourself who around you needs your voice to bring an encouraging word? Who are the individuals in your life who need to feel a healing touch from God through your hands? Who are the ones who need your feet to bring them strength and support, or perhaps a bag of groceries?

And how do I know that this is how we become eligible for God’s Hall of Faith? Because at the end of time when we all stand before Christ, both small and great, rich and poor, believers and unbelievers, this is what Jesus said He is going to do: 

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’” (Matthew 25:31-40).

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Martin Barraud

2. Drop the Judgmental Attitudes Toward People

man pointing an accusing finger at camera

It seems being critical towards others is most people’s default setting these days. So as God’s image bearers, we must be careful not to fall into the same trap as people of the world. That means, be sensitive to the souls chained by their sin.

There is a difference between having sound judgment (discerning right from wrong) and being judgmental. Judgmental means we display a negative, condemning, hypercritical attitude toward other people. We must learn to judge a situation, without being judgmental toward people.

In John 8, Jesus was famously confronted by the Pharisees dragging along a woman caught in adultery. The Pharisees wanted Jesus to condemn her to death in an act of unjust judgment.

In fact, she was being used as a pawn in their political game to trap Jesus; and they were manipulating ideas of morality as a means to increase their political power.

Instead, Jesus made a way for the woman to be free, because He valued her soul. He did for her what He has done for all of us — He loved her while she was still a sinner. He protected her from the judgmental condemnation of her accusers and looked beyond her sin to her soul. He was then able to show her the error of her sin.

In our world increasingly saturated with sin, do not forget the souls behind the sin.

“…let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:20).

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3. Assume Everyone Needs Encouragement

diverse groups of multicultural adults in group high-five

Every day we are surrounded by people who struggle in their minds, emotions, and relationships. Many will not openly discuss it, but clearly they are carrying enormous burdens. God wants to use you to encourage them.

“Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another” (Romans 14:19).

The word edify is the Biblical word for encouragement, which depicts a house fully built, complete from the foundation to the roof. That’s what encouragement does. When people are tearing one another down, we are called to build people up through encouragement!

When Saul of Tarsus was first converted, no one would accept him because of his past as a persecutor of Christians. People did not believe his conversion was genuine, and some couldn’t forgive him for the pain he caused. But then a disciple named Barnabas came along to encourage him:

“And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles” (Acts 9:26).

Saul struggled with apparent rejection by the church, and eventually went back to Tarsus. But Barnabas did not give up, and went after him (Acts 11:25).

Barnabas encouraged Saul; he didn’t just tell Saul he was valued, he showed him through his actions. He showed Saul that some believers really believed God could save the worst of sinners, and that He really had great plans for all of us. No matter how some will tear you down, God has some followers who are Hall of Faith contenders, who are concerned with building others up and encouraging people to be everything that God created them to be.

If it wasn’t for Barnabas’ encouragement, Saul likely wouldn’t have become the Apostle Paul, and would not have written two thirds of the New Testament.

That’s the power of encouragement that this world needs during these perilous times!

Let’s all be Hall of Faith contenders. Get your eyes off yourself and stop judging people rather than their sin. And most of all, be a Barnabas to the many people around you struggling to believe God loves them and has a good plan for their lives in this crazy world.

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Frank SantoraFrank Santora is Lead Pastor of Faith Church, a multi-site church with locations in Connecticut and New York. Pastor Frank hosts a weekly television show, “Destined to Win,” which airs weekly on the Hillsong Channel and TBN. He has authored thirteen books, including the most recent, Modern Day Psalms and Good Good Father. To learn more about Pastor Frank and this ministry, please visit www.franksantora.cc. Photo by Michele Roman.