As with every previous generation, we are living in the times that future generations will talk about. They will look back on us and judge the depth of our ignorance and the shallowness of our wisdom. They will discuss with gasps of astonishment at how little we considered the consequences of our actions or the ramifications of our inaction.
There is one significant difference between us and generations past. A difference which I have felt pressing on me like a crushing weight. In this time, like few before, we can train our minds on the present situation. We have the tools and near instantaneous access to consider how to proceed. We can look at what is transpiring around us and seek the Lord BEFORE it is too late to turn back. The precipice is drawing ever closer, but there may still be time to reverse course.
It is with a deep sense of foreboding that I reflect on the world in which I find myself and speak this word of warning to my brothers and sisters in Christ.
The world into which we were born has been in moral and societal decline for the better part of a century. The decadences we have indulged and the vices we have tolerated have yielded the bitter fruit of division and loathing. The real isolation of a global pandemic has exposed the anemic and fraying sinews of our civic bonds. The polarizing rhetoric in our current political climate has eroded the cohesion of our national peace. The fervent and insatiable need to be right, to prove others wrong, and to revel in ones own moral superiority has undermined many, if not all, of the opportunities for reconciliation.
If you think I am exaggerating, or being overly dramatic, or unnecessarily pessimistic you would be wrong. I say these things, not because I have seen into the future. No, I have looked into the annuls of our shared past and seen the cyclical nature of human affairs. The great and wise king of Jerusalem, Solomon the son of David, rightly remarked that there is nothing new under the sun. Everything old becomes new again. And everything old fades into memory. The cycle resets and repeats.
What’s more troubling, and equally as predictive, is the history of our predecessors in the faith. The people of Israel served as the custodians of the mysteries of God until the revelation of the eternal Logos. In Jesus the fullness of what was hidden in the Old Testament broke forth into time. And these special people ought to cause us to stop and consider the cycle we are repeating.
The book of Judges serves as a perpetual witness to our personal and national capacity to be fools.
- We turn to God only when the turbulence of national unrest has reached its zenith. But not before.
- We cry out to the Savior of our souls when we have reached the end of our own brilliance. But not before.
- We fight the battles and attend worship services and serve those downtrodden when we can feel the excellence of our charity. But not before.
We feign virtue and frolic in trivialities. We forsake those in greatest need by comparing ourselves to others. We serve no one but ourselves, sacrifice nothing but what is expendable, and then wonder why we feel empty and unfulfilled.
These are the hallmarks of a people who have a form of godliness, but deny its power. These are the characteristics of a people who have not fully turned their hearts to God. Instead, we have offered to God sacrifices he has not asked for. Only to be surprised when the blessings we expected are not granted. Why? Because we have begun to treat the True God as one would a god made with hands. We dishonor what we do not properly revere. And then we bristle with disdain when the farce has been exposed.
The world is being turned upside down and the Church rejoices like a thrill-seeker on a carnival ride. We have let go of the wheel, but rather than entrusting it to Jesus we have turned it over to those who neither know God nor seek to please him. Hedonism is too generous a term for this generation. Debauchery and wickedness, may be closer to the truth. We wallow in the muck and mire of our own depravity as a nation and rejoice in its warmth. But when the consequences of our laxity comes to deliver we are aghast at the prize we have earned.
The year 2020 will go down in history as the year when all pretense was exposed. At least for those willing to look and see it. Now, as the year draws to a close, another revelation. Another moment of clarity has been exposed. And this one cannot be covered up. It can be ignored. It can even be dismissed. But it can never be denied. The sordid alliance between the world and wolves in sheep’s clothing is being brought into the open.
“Where is it?”, you may be asking. Well, it can be difficult to see sometimes. However, when you see it, it’s hard to unsee it. In our time it has manifested itself in the always turbulent political process. The diagnosis is grave. But the great physician is still willing to administer the balm of salvation.
I will pick just one of several examples of the trajectory we are on that has become most apparent in the last few weeks.
There appear to be more “Christian” apologists for political candidates, parties, and movements than there are ardent and obedient disciples of Jesus Christ.
The level of passion and panic, frustration and fear, vitriol and vindictiveness on display has exposed that the idolatry of our nation still manifests itself and is embodied in the gods we can see with our physical eyes. What does that mean? It means that the eyes of our hearts are not only closed for too many in the church, but they have also been willfully stapled shut and are blind to the malevolence being enacted in plain sight.
The lack of self-awareness we have on display reveals that we have decided to continue eating the deadly fruit of Eden and it has consumed the minds of those claiming to be aligned with the One and True God. The fruit of Eden is the choice we make to assume the role of God in our lives. We have chosen to bear the responsibility of knowing good and evil for ourselves, rejecting the guardianship of God in the process. But we often learn too late the damage of that exchange.
In a more expanded way, we have chosen to live according to the false wisdom of men rather than the eternal wisdom of God. We have flexed our atrophied moral muscles and have put ourselves in opposition to the grandeur of God’s mighty power. What we seemingly fail to comprehend is that we are not what we imagine ourselves to be. We think we can drink the poison of worldly wisdom and vain philosophy and become like God. We have become so convinced of our own righteousness we stand over others as God. What’s worse, we conduct ourselves with an impunity that riles up the wrath of God against his wayward people.
In the Scriptures, over and over again, God calls his people to himself. He beckons them to live under the shadow of his protection. God declares his desire to pour out the immeasurable riches of his grace upon us. And what does he ask for? He asks for our love and obedience. He calls us to live in conformity to his law. But rather than accept these terms, we turn to our own way. We declare our emancipation from God’s superintendence. But that act of rebellion cannot go unpunished because it cannot be ignored.
You don’t get to do both. We don’t get to sit on the throne of our hearts and expect God to come and save the day when it all goes to hell. For every stone we lay on the altar of God with spiritual sounding words and altruistic actions of “faith”, we remove them when we entangle ourselves in the affairs of this world’s systems. Salt water and fresh water can’t come from the same mouth. Life and death can’t be uttered by the same tongue. And our allegiances can’t be masked by simply claiming to be impartial. No one is unbiased. And yet we perpetrate the farce so we don’t have to face the truth. We are not God, but have been pretending for too long to be able to rise into the very place of God.
13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. 15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. 16 They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; 17 That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners? 18 All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, every one in his own house. 19 But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and as the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcase trodden under feet. 20 Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land, and slain thy people: the seed of evildoers shall never be renowned. (Isaiah 14:13-20 KJV)
How have we gotten here? What has happened to us that we have drifted so far off course?
We have confused faithful biblical conduct with social engagement. We have contorted civic responsibility into political activism. We have challenged the placing of the old boundary stones but have not stopped long enough to ask why they were put there in the first place. All the while we have not stopped to realize and consider that we are not citizens of this world. That our primary and singular focus should be the proclamation of the Gospel.
When we participate in political tribalism, we are abdicating our true power. The power that can actually bring about the transformation our souls long for.
How do you know you are yielding to the seduction of becoming a political tribalist? When your side can do no wrong, and the other side can do no right. When you will defend your side’s every action without question and call into doubt every motive of your opposition without consideration.
The irony in all this is that when you read that last paragraph you probably had names and examples in mind. And that is the problem.
I want to implore you to repent of that inclination to label and malign those with whom you disagree. If your perception of another person, who is an image-bearer of God, is that they are evil or irredeemable, you must repent. No one can stand in mortal judgment of another. There is not a single person in this world who has the right or the authority to condemn another human soul.
If you feel that you must stand in judgment. You are wrong.
If you feel that they deserve to be condemned. You are wrong.
If you feel that they are unworthy of grace and forgiveness and charity, you are most definitely wrong. For you and I all stood condemned and yet God withdrew his hand from us!
God has used unbelievers and the enemies of his people to accomplish his purposes. But that is God’s prerogative. We have no place in trying to figure out what God is doing. Our call is to submission to what we know. And what is that?
- That there are lost souls in need of hearing about the glorious salvation of the Cross.
- There are hurting hearts in desperate need of a kind and loving touch.
- There are hungry people who must be feed the life giving bread of life.
- There are thirsty people who can be satisfied by the cool waters from the wellspring of eternal life.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we must heed the prompting of the Spirit of God and reject the spirit of the age. To throw our hands up is to surrender where victory has already been won. We cannot do this. We must not do this.
If the last few weeks have revealed anything, it is this: The light of Jesus has been hidden under the bushel of political perfervidity. We must let our light shine once again. We must do all we can to let what God has shone in our hearts to shine in the world once again (cf. 2 Cor. 4:6).
Lord help us. For if your people continue down this road, we will come to the end of our days, to late to realize we have chosen the wide path.