January 2, 2014
Do you ever tremble at the decline into depravity that continues all around? Do you also, like me, tremble at your own heart, aware that though the darkness without is formidable, the deceitfulness within could easily be our undoing? With every passing year it seems that what was unthinkable becomes shocking and what was shocking becomes acceptable. Blushing is a thing of the past while bold, brash flaunting of all things vile is encouraged.
The church has reacted wrongly to moral decline in at least three ways. First, there are some who cover their mouths in mock surprise, shake their heads in naïve disbelief and talk of the godlessness “out there.” These would forget the depth and pervasiveness of the Fall, assuming that normal life is decent people living in harmony with one another. Normal life is Mayberry. But that is not the Biblical description of our condition. Except for God’s benevolence and common grace, the world would know no peace. Withdrawal from the world into cloistered safety was never our Master’s design. Our mandate is engagement, interaction and missional living in this poor, fallen world. Throughout the ages, the church has been the renewing, restorative presence of God’s Kingdom on earth, reforming societies, rescuing the perishing, helping the hurting; in a word, extending the borders of Eden.
Another response starts with a true acknowledgement, but settles for a weak surrender. We rightly assert that the redeemed are broken, fallen sinners who have been shown mercy. We also recognize that some fractures caused by the Fall will not be completely healed in this life. There are struggles and frailties that remain with us till Jesus returns to make all things new. But there is more to the story. The difference between God’s adopted children and those who remain in rebellion is not simply that we are forgiven sinners. To stop there is to deny the magnitude of God’s astonishing grace in salvation. While we cannot set up lists and rules to determine spirituality (legalism), we must embrace the full, transformative work of God, following the new principle of life; we must live by and keep in step with the indwelling Holy Spirit. Paul’s conclusion about the nature of our union with Jesus Christ is, “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Romans 6:3-4 NIV
The third response is perhaps the most deadly, as was proven in Eve’s interaction with the Serpent in the Garden of Eden. The suggestion to Eve was that God is not to be obeyed unless the reason behind his command fits our own understanding and desires. Satan’s question to Eve was, “Did God actually say?” Our cultures penchant to question authority is deeply rooted in the American psyche. One of the slogans during the Revolutionary War was “We Serve No Sovereign Here.” While there are obvious positive implications about our mistrust of absolute political power, that attitude reeks of devilish defiance when it come to our posture before the Creator. That is the spirit that has seeped into the church. God’s clear directives and moral laws are being re-examined and re-interpreted in light of our culture’s moral autonomy. The newly enlightened suggest, “Did God actually say that? That certainly cannot be the Bible’s meaning”, and choose a Christianity that is in step with popular consensus. True obedience, on the other hand, is being content with the simple command, convinced that whatever God decrees is right, just and good.