These are very troubling times in which we live. Every day we see anger and hatred manifesting itself across our world through violence and protests, one side against another, as the very fabric of our beliefs are being called into question. This is not new to our world, yet now it is taking a different path, a darker tone of mischief and discontent, coming closer and closer to our doorsteps. It is unsettling, to say the least.
In America, many of us have grown up in a post world war society, enjoying prosperity and security in a life that we have come to expect. A certain balance of good against evil, justice, and symmetry, while we go about the pursuits of our own happiness. It is fair to say, we like this way of life, we enjoy it, and we expect it to continue uninterrupted. After all, this very way of life was laid out for us in our constitution; life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, the good life has made it’s way into our churches over these last few decades of prosperity, turning them from a place of solemn worship and devotion, into a place where we expand our social circles, enjoy an hour or two together, then go home, put away the Bible and lose ourselves in our worldly pursuits. That’s not to say we don’t do some good along the way and it’s not a knock on good Christian fellowship which is vital, but can we honestly say that our first priority is reaching the lost for Christ? Do we take the good news with us throughout the week, sharing with friends and strangers our personal testimony, do we invite them to worship with us? Many of you can answer yes, but how much more have lost sight of our true purpose, our calling as disciples, and become more focused on personal agendas, our comforts, our misguided expectations of life. The pursuit of happiness.
In many cases, the church I see today, and I point the finger directly at myself, is one of a spoiled generation of believers; we like things the way they are, we enjoy our air-conditioned version of religion with the proper balance of music and messages, all contained in a neatly organized package, delivered once a week in a timely fashion. We are prodigiously unprepared for the real challenges that await just beyond the horizon.
So let’s ask some basic questions and start at the beginning. Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Have you made that profession of faith described in Romans Chapter 10 verse 9,“that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;” and if so, where do you stand in your journey as a believer and to what level has your faith grown in that time? Would you be willing to give up your life for your beliefs? You might recoil at that last question, to think that we would ever actually be faced with that decision, my life for my faith in the Lord. If you’re paying attention to the world today, including middle America, then you should be aware that the spirit of the Antichrist is actively roaming about while gaining a stronghold in the minds of many. 1 John chapter 4 verses 2 and 3 states,
By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.
This evil spirit, one and same with our adversary Satan, has been in this world all along and today is stronger than ever and gaining momentum. Are you prepared for the coming onslaught against the church or will you simply get in line when instructed to do so and blend into a society that has lost its very way? My goal in this message is not to spread fear but to challenge you to flee from your comfortable air-conditioned view on religion and wake up to the life that Jesus has called each one of us to undertake. The bar has been set very high and we must strive daily to reach the highest levels of our faith in order to fulfill our duties as true disciples of Jesus Christ our Lord.
We are surrounded by a lost world and today, more than any time in recent history, we can see the bitterness of that world, those disillusioned and angry non-believers as they struggle to make sense of their own worldview. At times we see absolute and unbridled hatred spill over into violence, but my question for you to ponder is this; why would you expect non-believers to act any other way? They do not know God, therefore they do not know Love. 1 John 4 verses 19-21 says
We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
How can the world come to know God and His love unless we, as believers, step out and proclaim the good news to them? Unfortunately our tendencies today are to step away from the spotlight, blend in, or as with the old saying, go along to get along. Satan is busy setting his traps, building upon a new version of societal thought that your beliefs and ideas are not acceptable if even one person is offended. The politically correct thought police are on the prowl and believe me, they are less concerned with being offended as they are with shutting down the church as we know it today. We then obediently step in line, lowering our collective voices to a whisper, passing one opportunity after another to share our testimony in public, because it might be awkward or offensive to talk about Christ in the workplace or the grocery store. We wait until we’re safely inside our church, surrounded by other believers, out of sight of the public domain, to sing our hymns and worship.
Do we really love God, the one who first loved us, or do we lie to ourselves and others? If we truly love our brother, we would not let the moment pass to share the good news of salvation. How could we if it could make the difference between eternal life with Christ or forever to be separated from God and cast out with our enemy and his demons.
Listen to this short excerpt from an interview with famed magician and professed atheist, Penn Jillette, known with his partner as Penn and Teller, as he questions how true believers in Jesus Christ could ever keep that good news to themselves.
My challenge to you today is not to get angry but to take stock in your own spiritual life and honestly review where you are compared to where you know you should be in your walk with the Lord. Do you begin each day with the Word, preparing for the challenges and opportunities you will face? Do you have a daily prayer life? Is your bible easy to find on Sunday morning because it’s always right where you left it when you got home from church the previous week? Did you witness to anyone today, this week, this month? Do the flames of righteousness burn brightly within your soul or has that fire slowly dwindled to fading embers?
I will leave you to ponder those questions but I will also remind you, as the author of this message, I have asked myself those questions and much more and I come up short in every category. This isn’t about beating ourselves up for our shortcomings, this is about the great news and love of our Father, so much so that even when we were yet sinners and lost in this world, He sent his only Son as a sacrifice for all. Let’s stir those fires within our hearts and rekindle the flames so that we burn brightly in a dark and lost world. I want to hear from you, share your comments and your prayer requests. I want to know your challenges and I want to pray for you. If you have not accepted the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, or if you need more information on what it means to be saved, please don’t hesitate to contact our ministry. We are here for you and want to share the Love of God with you. May God truly bless and encourage you on your journey with Him.
*(photograph of Terra Cotta of Christ by Soldani, from the Frick Museum Collection)
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