Niki observes, in the comments section of the previous post: “The question is how do we address the moral conditions and what good will that do?” This gets to the heart of why I sought to open this dialogue. How do we address the need of our day?
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My response falls into two distinct sections. To begin with, I’d like for us to think about three things. These are: 1) A reminder of what I believe is are the indicators of cultural decline in America; 2) the brief synopsis of what I believe is our shared understanding regarding the nature of the kingdom; and 3) why it is I believe that one facet of kingdom living is addressing the moral conditions of this or any nation in which we reside.
First, let me share what I believe to be five strong indicators of cultural decline in America:
1. The DEVALUATION OF LIFE as exhibited in the high number of abortions; the increasing demand for the abortion pill, RU486; the continued efforts to legalize physician assisted suicide; the glorification of violence in virtually every form of mass media; and the number of murders committed each year.
2. The DEIFICATION OF THE INDIVIDUAL as exhibited in concerted efforts of many to sanitize society of public expressions of faith in a Creator God and Sovereign Lord who has anything to say about how we conduct our daily lives.
3. The DETERIORATION OF SOCIAL MORES as exhibited in the constant reports of corporate and political corruption; the high numbers of property crimes, including theft of intellectual property; and the general decline of civility in the way people interact on a day-to-day basis.
4. The DECONSTRUCTION OF SOCIAL STRUCTURES as exhibited in the continued efforts to reshape our thinking with respect to marriage; family and sexuality, which necessitates the removal of “old” structures which “conflict” with the “new” structures and “confuse” emerging generations.
5. The DESENSITIZATION OF SOCIETY TO SUFFERING AND INJUSTICE as exhibited in an apparent willingness to overlook entire people groups and population centers that are in need as a result of mistreatment and/or abuse simply because we have seen so much of this that we are becoming convinced that nothing is ever going to change.
The second category of thought we need to touch on is our shared understanding of the nature of the kingdom… The kingdom of Christ is spiritual in nature. Jesus said so Himself, as we read John 18:36, “…My kingdom is not of this world…” Now, because the kingdom is spiritual in nature, it is experienced in the hearts of women and men who have yielded to the sovereignty of Christ. This is why Jesus said the kingdom is “within you” in Luke 17:21. While the Greek word ἐντός can be understood to mean “in your midst or among you” the force of the context here seems to strongly call for the translation of “within you”. And, since the acceptance of the sovereignty of Christ continues in the world as people yield their lives to Jesus, the kingdom of Christ continues to break into the world in new places in every generation.
The third area of discussion arises from the second:There is a spiritual war raging between good and evil, between God and the devil… Since each soul delivered from the dominion of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son deals another blow to the devil (cf. Colossians 1:13 and Romans 16:20), the devil resists every effort to expand the influence of Christ’s kingdom. This warfare is not against flesh and blood. It is against all the forces of the little “g” god of this world (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4) can enlist to do his bidding. It is against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (cf. Ephesians 6:12) It is spiritual warfare. To refuse to engage in the battle is to misunderstand the nature of our existence—when we resist the devil he will flee from us, when we don’t he won’t.
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Now, for the second part of my response: What are we to do? How are we to respond? What is our best path forward?
(1) We must awaken to the fact that the Christian way of life is under attack. This is nothing new. This is not, primarily, to point to an enemy in a distant land that wants to launch terroristic attacks on us, either. This is not to point to the recent school shootings and say, “See! I told you we were under attack.” These things that are happening in our world are, in my view, signs of the times. They are symptomatic of a spiritual cancer that has metastasized and is eating its way through core of our culture.
As the prophets of old called Israel to repentance when they had gone astray, our culture needs to be called to repentance. As God sent the prophet Jonah to call the heathen city of Nineveh to repent, so must God’s call go out to people all over the world to repent. Just like God sent the Apostle Paul to speak to the Gentiles to call them to open their eyes and turn from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, we must realize that we’ve been called to do the same. (cf. Acts 26:18) Just as the same Apostle stood in the Areopagus and stated emphatically that God has commanded all people everywhere to repent of their pagan idolatry (cf. Acts 17:30), we must do the same.
(2) We must awaken to the fact that the only hope of the world is Jesus. We must learn how to share the Good news concerning Jesus in a way that connects with people of this world, in a way that doesn’t sound like we are parroting a bunch of old worn out arguments from the centuries past. I love to read and learn about sacred history. I think there is some value in knowing a bit about the past. I even agree we the sage who said that those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.
But, the message of Christ is a timeless truth, because it was conceived and executed in the mind of God before the beginning of time (cf. 2 Timothy 1:9). It is as relevant to our day as it was in the first day it reached the ears of any person who heard it in the first century. While many who were schooled in the rationalistic thinking which characterized modernity responded to a systematic presentation of Gospel truth, the world we live is has changed. We are moving through the liminal space thought of by many as the postmodern era. While many things are yet to be understood about what this emerging era, one thing is certain: The narrative approach to communicating a message is the most effective. Yet, in many places we continue to do things as they have always been done. Continuing to do the same things we have always done them, while expecting different results, is just crazy. That’s how some people define insanity, you know? That is: Doing the same things, but expecting different results, is insane. We must find new ways, fresh ways, of communicating God’s truth to the people of this generation that are as precious in the sight of God as any generation ever to tread on this orb.
(3) We must not think that there is any way we can successfully contend in this battle on our own. Here’s where I believe we have failed in the past. We have gone out under our own power with our own schemes and dreams guiding our steps and have walked right into the devil’s trap. The devil is not omniscient or omnipotent or omnipresent, but he has been at this task for a long-long time. If he can bait us out and box us in, he’ll do it in a New York minute. He wants us to respond without thinking it through. He wants us to trust in our own strategies. He wants to keep us so traumatized by the latest attacks that we forget about the promises of God. He wants us to forget that we have been given every defensive and offensive weapon we need to overcome him in battle in the full armor of Christ. This is why the Holy Spirit was so explicit on this matter in Ephesians 6:10-18. Here we read:
10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
© Bill Williams, October 8, 2006