Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Fierce Society: Part 3

This article is meant to be a discussion of current times, not end times. I don’t want to get into theological debates around eschatology. Some emphasize the great falling away while others argue that the Gospel will conquer. There is often an element of paradox in spiritual truth. The Bible speaks of great evil and darkness while also speaking of the glory of God and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Regardless of a person’s perspective on end times, it is indisputable that we are currently in a time of world-wide intensity, as seen in nature, politics, economics and sociological dynamics. Nations are filled with conflict and distress. Those that seem to be at peace are better described as being in a malaise (that vague sense of ill-being and debility that accompanies the onset of an illness). Even people who lack spiritual perception can sense the urgency of the times.
We are moving into an era of troubled people and troubled times, a time when the devil will be active and angry, but also a time when the glory of God will be upon His people. In the days that are coming, Christians should be spiritually alert, in prayer, and boldly proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.  –Billy Long

The Fierce Society: Part 3
The following quote from “Minute Man News” gives a current example of the thin line between civilized and savage in its comments on the behavior of passengers on the cruise ship that recently lost power on the Gulf of Mexico.
“But what is interesting and how quickly this situation started looking like the Lord of the Flies. Just like what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. People started acting like wild animals. And this will keep happening. The ready availability of abundant resources has given all of us the illusion that we are in fact civilized. But the reality is that the civilization we’ve undergone has been largely superficial. Most of us are still savages at heart.”  -(a quote from MINUTE MAN NEWS).

By laying aside God, the Bible, and Judeo-Christian values our society is deliberately or unwittingly destroying the under-girding foundation necessary for a peaceful, stable, and prosperous society, and in turn is laying the grounds for an intellectually inferior, undisciplined, morally depraved, lawless, and fierce society.
2 Timothy 3: 1-3, and Romans 1: 28-32 describe the ultimate characteristics of a culture that rejects God and which is "given over" to itself and its sin. Paul says that the times will be “perilous.”   The Greek word is also translated “fierce” and is the same word used to describe the demoniac (Matthew 8:28) out of whom Jesus cast a legion of demons. This man was exceedingly “fierce,” living among the tombs, naked, cutting himself, breaking chains used to bind him, and producing fear in all who came near. It is quite disturbing that the word used to describe this man is also used to describe times and the people that “will come.”

 “This Generation”
Jesus, grieved at the society around him, gave three descriptions of “this generation.”  In Matthew 11: 16-19 He refers to “this generation” as sitting in the “marketplace” of reality, irrelevant and playing games while the real issues of the day transpire all around them. It is a picture of the church sitting inside its four walls and failing in its responsibility to be salt and light in the world.
In Matthew 11:20-24 he speaks of “this generation” that had access to grace, truth, and the presence of God like no other generation and yet rejected it.
In Matthew 12: 38-42 He speaks of “this generation” that wanted proof but rejected the very proof that was standing right in front of them.
In Matthew 12: 43-45 He warns us of “this generation” that knew God, like the man who was freed from the demon, but failed to follow-through in his walk with God. The demon came back with seven other demons more wicked than himself, and entered the man causing the last state of the man to be worse than the first. Jesus said, “So shall it be with ‘this wicked generation.’”

Serious Consequences
We should not take lightly the moral and social issues of the day and their consequences on our society. We should not think that the laws of the land are set apart into some neutral territory for which God is not concerned. More and more as we move into the ends of the age we will see an intensification in the spiritual warfare in the heavens. And it will affect our daily lives. Government will not just simply be the benevolent force that facilitates peace and order, but will become an instrument of godlessness that tries to control our lives and take away our prosperity and freedom, and at some point persecute those who follow Jesus and the God of the Bible. As we remove Judeo-Christian values from our laws, institutions, and daily lives, we will experience more and more troubles. A society that forgets God and turns to its various idols will become the “fierce” society that the Apostle Paul describes, a disintegrating society filled with selfishness, violence, immorality, unrest, and conflict.

A Fierce People
In the two paragraphs quoted below, we see the Apostle Paul’s description of a culture that turns its back on God, a society which God has “given over” to itself. He describes what we can look forward to if our nation continues its move away from God and His word.
“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 turn away…[they are] always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” -(2 Timothy 3: 1-5).

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife deceit, evil-mindedness, they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful, who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. - (Romans 1:28-32).

“Arise, cry out in the night.”
 Regardless of a person’s eschatology (study of end times) it is not difficult to see that our nation and the world are entering difficult times. Christians will agree, regardless of their theological perspective, that it is time to call on God.
It must start with the individual, with each one of us. The challenges of today also bring great opportunity for God's people to know Him and touch Him as they never have before. Christians may have been comfortable being lukewarm and complacent in the past. But I don't think that is an option for us in the days ahead. Peter, James, and John slept in the Garden of Gethsemane while Jesus agonized in prayer.They did not realize the hour that was approaching. I believe that we are facing an hour in which we must prepare ourselves by genuine commitment to the Lord, and by calling on the Lord. One of my prayers these days is that the Lord will prepare me and my household for the days that are coming. I also pray this for my neighbors.
There are many who are praying for and believing for revival to sweep our nation. A revival that captures the entire nation could bring about a wonderful kingdom of God peace that thoroughly saturates the culture. We can pray for that, but we must also prepare for what the first Christians experienced. They saw a great visitation of God through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit with multitudes being saved, healed, and delivered from the power of darkness. Whole cities were converted. But they also experienced great  persecution. We must pray and intercede for a thorough societal transformation, but also be prepared for persecution and trials similar to those of the early church in the book of Acts. 

 “Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the watches; Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord. Lift your hands toward Him for the life of your young children…” (Lamentations 2:19).

“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”  (2 Chronicles 7:14).

“Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you.”  (Isaiah 60: 1-2).

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Fierce Society: Part 2

This is the second post in the series entitled “The Fierce Society.” The purpose of the series will be to help Christians to understand the times and the nature of the society we will be dealing with. Christians should be living in and demonstrating the kingdom of God in the midst of an ungodly society in perilous times. This second post simply touches on the Christian’s influence in a society that seeks to silence that perspective. –Billy Long

The Church and Government
The church as an organization should not control civil government, but Christians as individuals should participate in government and express themselves and their values in matters of civil law. Everyone else does; why not us? Every legislator votes according to his moral values or lack thereof. The problem for us is that humanistic and godless people have been gradually taking over and pushing the Judeo-Christian perspective into the corner and out of the room. God and the Bible are considered irrelevant and offensive. Christians have been told to be quiet.

 Amidst the silence of compliant and passive Christians many of us have been deceived into thinking this is normal and that God and His word are irrelevant in public discourse. Humanistic unbelievers have laid down the rules saying, “You can’t quote the Bible.” I say, “Why not?” If you remove God and the Bible, then you have no authoritative basis for rules and morality. If you remove God and the Bible, then you have no authoritative answer to give your children when they ask you why they should not engage in sex with their friends. Without God there is no basis for right and wrong, except what the majority decides, and even then why must we be bound to the will of the majority? The only final authority is the Sovereign God, who commands us. Without Him, we go “each to his own way” as the prophet Isaiah said.

The framers of our constitution never intended to remove God, prayer, and the Bible from our national life. The bill of rights in the United States Constitution was designed to maintain freedom of religion and to prevent the government from controlling the spiritual and religious life of the people. It also prevents any organized religion from using the government to force people to follow their particular brand. It states that “congress shall make no laws” respecting the establishment of religion nor prohibit the free exercise thereof. The government cannot force or prevent religion. But from the beginning of our nation, prayer and the Bible were freely referenced in law, courts, public institutions, and schools. This is because the individuals themselves acknowledged God. Regardless of the actual spiritual condition of the people, our national culture was formed from a Judeo-Christian world-view. Most people acknowledged the God of the Bible whether or not they were personally Christian in their practice and behavior. The government could not establish or prohibit religion, but Judeo-Christian values were a natural part of our national life, and God was acknowledged in all branches of Government.

Even with our differences it used to be that our society was a more peaceful blend of variety that seemed to co-exist with “give and take,” with “conviction and compromise” working together. Now we are becoming more and more polarized with world-views that are hostile to one another, incompatible, and separated by a gulf difficult to cross. This leads to tension and conflict. The Judeo-Christian consensus that gave reality to our motto “E Pluribus Unum” (One out of Many) is now being replaced in practice by the principle of “Division out of Plurality.” We have been losing the Christian consensus.

Christian Influence
The church as an organization should not control the civil government, and the secular government should not control the church. When the Roman Empire was split into east and west, there was a period when the Pope in Rome gained political ascendency and power over secular rulers, while in the eastern half of the empire the secular ruler in Constantinople had power over the church. Both dynamics proved harmful to the church and led to corruption and hindrance to true spiritual life. The government should not infringe on religion, and the institutional church should not try to control secular government. But individual Christians should be involved in government as in all aspects of public life.

Legislating Morality?
All laws represent a legislation of morality and reflect the world-view and values of those who make the laws. People have often attempted to silence the Christian influence by saying, “You can’t legislate morality.” But this statement is only partially true. You cannot use law and legislation to make a person moral, but you can use law to affect his behavior. If a man is a thief at heart, the law is not designed to make him moral but to prevent him from stealing. Law is, in fact, a legislation of morality. The only question is: Whose morality?

This is why it is unreasonable to silence Christians and tell them they should not be involved or give input into the legislative processes of our nation. If Christians are forbidden to have a voice or influence, then whose values will be the basis of our laws?

The Role of Christians
If the church sits in hypocrisy or empty ritual and confines itself to the four walls of the Sunday morning meetings, it will be despised as being irrelevant and detached from reality. But if the church arises in the integrity and power of who she really is, expressing the supernatural life and character of Jesus Christ, she will potentially be hated by a world desiring to keep God at a distance and cast off his rule over their lives.

So what should we as Christians do? We must love the world as Jesus did. We must proclaim the good news that Jesus came to save them and bring them into relationship with God. We should live in and teach the ways of God as taught in His Word the Bible.

Regarding government, we should pray for rulers and authorities. We should be involved in government. We should do all we can to influence legislation so that laws are just and not morally reprehensible.

But we must remember that we cannot “Christianize” the nation by laws and statutes. The Christian’s main thrust should be to change the nation by prayer and evangelism, by proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God. We need another national revival like those experienced under Jonathon Edwards in the 1700s, Charles Finney in the 1800’s, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that occurred in the 1960s and 1970s, just to name a few. The solution is for men and women turn to God. We will not find the answer in politics.

We should remember that Jesus is "King of kings" (and King of presidents). All rulers will answer to Him.  

"Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Annointed saying, 'Let us break Their bonds in pieces, and cast away Their cords from us.'  He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure: Yet I have set My King on His holy hill of Zion... Now, therefore, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him."  -Psalm 2