Currents of popular opinion sweep about us like white water waves swirling down the narrow ravine of everyday living. They threaten to sweep us off our feet into the wild seas of disillusionment and disappointment though we strive to cling to things on which we can count. When we finally find the "rock" of love and mercy that Jesus is to those who believe in Him, we finally discover a firm place to plant our feet, a solid rock on which we stand.
But then calamities of one kind or another come and they threaten to pry the fingers of faith loose even as a subtle, yet pernicious, erosion works at weakening our confidence in the words of hope that God has spoken to us.
Sadly, such waves seem appealing at times and we find it all too easy to give in to pressures and promptings. At times we not only allow ourselves to be carried along blindly by those streams of wild thoughts and reckless ideas but we revel in them, at least until we are finally cast upon the jagged rocks of brokenness and ruin.
Even more sad are those occasions when messages urging the abandonment of truth come to us under the mask of Christian leadership. There are those who advocate from the pulpit of popularity a "gospel" that is not really a gospel: a good news that is not truly "good news", but is instead a dangerous deception.
For example, one popular book of late bearing a Christian label picks up the thread of spiritual relativism and basically tells us that much of what we read in the Bible is untrue or is, at the very least, greatly misunderstood. It asserts that there are many ways to know God, be accepted by Him, and subsequently be ushered into an eternity of bliss. It asserts that there is no hell (or final judgment of any kind), since hell is not commensurate with the author's ideas of God.
These notions are not new ideas in circles of "Christian" thinking. They just are newly raised, refurbished, and repackaged to look as though they are new messages for a new millennium.
A defender of this particular author, another leader in what is sometimes referred to as the "Emergent Church", claims that we in the contemporary world cannot understand what the Bible really means given its spiritual sophistication and the alien nuances of the cultures and languages that existed at the time of its writing.
Another writer advocating such "ticklish teachings" wonders "what if?" What if this book is right? It seems to him that the cloudy ambiguities in this new book are just as right (if not more so) as the basic tenets of orthodox Christian teaching we have heard since childhood. Unfortunately, tossing "what if's" into the mix of faith does not create a new sense of wonder and awe but ultimately robs us of the assurance that the Bible is truly trustworthy. "What if the Bible isn't right about hell?" "What if Jesus is A way to God& one way among many?" "What if people can be 'saved' after death?"
While such ideas may give us momentary (but delusional) comfort when we are considering the plight of lost loved ones, they eventually steal from us that same comfort because the consistency of the Bible's message has been compromised. Worse yet, in saying that teachings of the Word of God can't be taken at face value, we find that the its overall message has been rendered incoherent. Because "hell" has been explained away, heaven is suddenly suspect. Because it is assumed that one does not need to receive Christ in this lifetime, Jesus is put off indefinitely. Because other ways to God than Jesus Christ have been introduced, Jesus is demoted from "Savior and Lord" to merely "teacher and friend".
"In the end," says one writer, "I don't know. And you don't know. Which is why we have faith." But if we simply leave things there, we are quagmired in a kind of agnosticism (which basically means, "there is no knowing"). Just WHO is our faith in? WHAT is our faith in? If there is no knowing anything then there is no foundation on which to have faith.
But, happily, we have been given that foundation through "revelation"; specifically, God's revealing of Himself through His Word. While some may say that we cannot understand what the Bible really means when we open it and read, we find that it proves to be pretty straightforward after all.
Expository preaching may help to deepen our understanding of some things in it, but we can take Jesus' claims about Himself at face value and learn to rest in His promises. Some books and Bible study supplements can often help us to apply what we learn from the Word of God, but its claims about the Holy One, His holy law, and his righteous judgment can be taken seriously with a highly appropriate sense of urgency. Worship, religious activities, and service may energize and enrich the daily application of our faith in God's Word, but are eternally meaningful only when they are the responses of hearts that realize the sin and destruction from which they have been delivered and the price paid by Jesus' blood for their redemption.
Let us not play games with God's grace and let us certainly not minimize the urgency of the hour. Men and women today are as much in dire spiritual straits as were the people of the first century who recognized their sinfulness and the inevitable consequence of their unattended condition.
Realizing that a "just" God would deal with sin with justice, dooming all of sin's partakers to an eternity apart from Him, "they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off for all whom the Lord our God will call" (Acts 2:37-39).
The needs of people are the same today as they were then. Rich or poor, man or woman, young or old, people need Jesus; they need the power of His cross applied to their lives which comes only through a personal response of faith (which results in repentance and obedience to His Word); and they need Christians to proclaim the freedom found only in the truth of the Gospel of Christ. They need freedom from the awesome ogre of doubt.
Great article. How can we, as Christians, hope to make a difference when some of our own continue to cast doubt on our beliefs? Standing firm in the Word, saved by Jesus and kept by God is the only way we can "overcome the current". Robert