But as for you, beloved, remember the [prophetic] words spoken by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They used to say to you, “In the last days there will be scoffers, following after their own ungodly passions.” These are the ones who are [agitators] causing divisions—worldly-minded [secular, unspiritual, carnal, merely sensual—unsaved], devoid of the Spirit.
I was among the Church and physically in the church, so I thought I was safe. There is a certain naiveté that accompanies many new believers, thinking that it is unlikely or even impossible for evil to infiltrate the house of God. He was a little strange, but I did not want to pass judgment. We attended the same young adult group and men’s bible study, and we all wanted to grow to be friends. It was in the intimate setting of a small group that his real self began to surface. This was a man not inhabited or driven by God’s Holy Spirit but by something altogether different. Faithfully, God would raise a number of us individually and unconnected but simultaneously to discern the dangerous scoffer in our midst.
Scripture gives us many examples of what a Spirit-filled Christian should look like. It also gives us many examples of what a worldly person looks like. There are two reasons why we are taught this distinction. One reason is that we must be sure to constantly check our spiritual state. If we see ourselves conforming to the wrong standard, then we must make a change. A second and perhaps more compelling reason is that we must be able to discern who among us is not part of the Church. We cannot be so naive as to think that there are no wolves among the sheep when the Bible tells us that we can expect to find some. If we are not discerning, we could start following a wolf instead of our shepherd. The scoffers do not exist only outside those four walls.
The Church is called to be loving, generous and kind. This does not mean, however, that we are not to be careful. There are genuine spiritual dangers in the world, and we cannot predict when one of those dangers might invade what we think is a sacred spiritual space. We can be welcoming while still discerning the Spirit in others. The exercise of this discernment is not only for the protection of the individual but the protection of the body. We must remind ourselves regularly of the distinction between the Church and the world in order to see who shares the Spirit we have. Father, give us the knowledge and wisdom to be able to draw the distinction between the sheep and the scoffers for our safety and that of your Church.