by Pastor Lars Larson, Ph.D.
Not long ago I received an E-mail from one of our church members who expressed many of my own feelings and thoughts of recent months. He voiced his quandary on how he should act and react biblically toward what we are witnessing—the moral and spiritual meltdown of our culture. He also stated his concern and sense of regret for the anger he had toward those whose relentless efforts to de-moralize our nation have gained recent and significant victories. They seem to be gaining ground rapidly in defeating decency, as they lead our society to jettison our traditional moral values and overthrow our historic social institutions. Indeed, there have been recent “victories” by those who oppose historic Christian morality. This is particularly apparent in the matter of homosexuality.
- The Supreme Court overturned a state’s right to enforce anti-sodomy laws.
- Massachusetts legalized homosexual marriages.
- Television programs celebrate homosexual values and behavior and commercials advertising these programs are aired throughout the day.
- An “openly gay” man is a bishop in the Episcopalian denomination.
- State legislatures are outlawing “discrimination” of refusing to hire a transgender person.
- I have read that a California business or non-profit organization (churches are exempted) may be fined $150,000 for refusing to hire a man who dresses as a woman.
Moreover, society in general has become very coarse. Foul language is part of every day speech. Subjects that were once too private and personal to mention, are now a matter of public discourse, talked about and joked about openly. Words and terms that no decent person would have once used in public are part of our common speech and are voiced in our schools to our children. Television programs and commercials display graphic sexual images and themes, and present subjects that would have caused the general public to blush a generation ago. But today they are the subject of sitcom entertainment, soap operas, and trashy “novels” and magazines. In the face of all that we see unfold before us we ask ourselves, what is God doing and how would He have us act and react? How are Christians to think and respond to what we are witnessing? Here are some proposals:
I. First, reaffirm to yourself and to those around you that the Bible, God’s Word, is authoritative and sufficient to guide us through these days. Paul exhorted Timothy that he was fully equipped with the Scriptures to confront and respond to any situation that a wicked world and a corrupt church could pose (2 Tim. 3:16f). We have the same Scriptures given to us by the same God, Who has promised to guide us and help us bear witness of His truth to this fallen world. The Scriptures are sufficient to inform us of what God is doing and what He would have us do in response to what is unfolding before us.
What do the Scriptures teach us about God and His purposes in His world? What should we take special note of as we seek to understand God’s will for us? (1) First, we must affirm the Bible teaches that God is the Sovereign Ruler of history. Even when times are difficult and people are manifesting sin to a great degree, our Lord God is ordering events to further His own glory in history. The sin we are witnessing in society is the result of God’s judicial hardening. Sin is the consequence of sin for sin itself is God’s judgment upon sin. The wages of sin is more sin, which results in death (Rom. 6:23). When sin abounds in a culture, it is certain that God has withdrawn His mercy and grace and has allowed sinful people to pursue their sinful desires, thereby assuring their overthrow and condemnation. (2) Although God is sovereign in His rule over history, it does not negate the free agency of sinful people. Free agency is to be distinguished from free will, as it has been historically understood. The Bible teaches the free agency of people to choose to sin. People make their own decisions about what they believe and do. God is not the author of sin. He does not force people to do what they do not want to do; rather, he overrules the sinful inclinations and actions of sinners in order to accomplish His purposes. The Bible teaches that God is sovereign over sinful men, but that sinful men are, nevertheless, accountable to God for their sinful actions. One day God will judge everyone according to the works each one chose to commit in this life (Rom. 2:6; Rev. 20:12f). Free will, on the other hand, has been defined as man’s innate ability to choose any of all options offered in a given situation—he has the ability in himself to believe and obey God. This is not a teaching of the Bible. God’s Word reveals that man’s will has been so effected by sin that he is both unable and unwilling to live so as to please God. He chooses to sin because he is a sinner; he will choose to do no differently. Only the grace of God in the new birth can change the very nature of a sinner into that of a saint, one who seeks purposely, granted imperfectly, to live in faith and obedience to God. (3) God has called and equipped us for this hour to bear witness of Him. God has placed each of us in His world, in the land in which we are living, and in this time in history, in order to glorify Him before a fallen world. God “has made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation” (Act 17:26). God would have us bear witness of His Word to our lost generation.
II. Second, of what are we to bear witness? We are to make known to the world the glory of God. To what are we referring when we speak of the glory of God? The glory of God is the truth of Who God is in His Being and attributes. When we say that we have “seen” the glory of God, we are saying that we have come to understand in a measure Who God truly is in the wonder and beauty of His nature and we have come to see His hand in the affairs of mankind. It is the ongoing mission of the people of God to declare the glory of God to their generation. This declaration involves announcing and teaching others where God may be known and seen, what He is doing and what He will do in history.
The Bible tells us that we may see the glory of God through observing His “works”; God is revealed through what He does.
All thy works shall praise Thee, O Lord; and thy saints shall bless Thee. They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of Thy power, to make known to the sons of men His mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of His kingdom. (Psa. 145:10-12)We are to draw the attention of people about us to God’s mighty acts so that they might see His glory. “Declare his glory among the heathen; His marvelous works among all nations” (1 Chron. 16:24).
The Scriptures speaks of various “works” of God by which God has revealed Himself.
(1) God reveals His glory to us through His work of Creation.
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night shows knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. (Psa. 19:1-4)The work of God in creation reveals the glory of God in that He is shown to be a wise, powerful, and good God, Who has created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them.
(2) God reveals His glory in His on-going work of maintaining and ruling over His creation. This is what is commonly known as God’s providence. One once summarized providence in this way:
God upholds all things by His power; governs the world by His wisdom; looks down upon the earth, takes notice and care of all His creatures in it, and makes provision for them, and guides and directs them to answer the ends for which they were made; which is the sum and substance of Providence. (John Gill).God not only created the world, He governs His world through history. King Nebuchadnezzar, the pagan king of Babylon, learned this truth and which resulted in him glorifying God:
I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted up my eyes unto heaven, and my understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honored Him that lives for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation, and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He does according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, “What doest thou?” (Dan. 4:34-35)As people recognize that the events of their lives are due to God dealing with them, whether for “good” or “bad”, they are given a glimpse of the glory of God. It should be our desire and design, therefore, to declare that God is ruling in the heavens and the earth, and that He is the One who overrules the affairs of all of His creatures, whether they are believers or not. God is the Preserver of all life, and He is the Provider for all His creatures through His providence. We are to draw people’s attention to this spiritual truth to the end that they might see His glory, acknowledging Him, seeking Him, and believing on Him.
(3) God reveals His glory through His judgments upon His enemies and the salvation that He brings His people. The great Old Testament event that revealed God’s glory was the Exodus of Israel from Egypt. In this one event God glorified Himself in both judging Egypt and redeeming His people from bondage. The Lord brought the events of the Exodus in order to reveal His glory to the world.
For the Lord your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until you were passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red sea, which He dried up from before us, until we were gone over, that all the people of the earth might know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you might fear the Lord your God for ever. (Josh. 4:23f)God in His sovereignty even hardened pharaoh’s heart more than once so that he would resist releasing Israel’s release, thereby showing the glory of God in the remarkable way that Egypt was overthrown and destroyed. God said to pharaoh, “for this cause have I raised thee up, for to show in you My power; and that My name may be declared throughout all the earth” (Exo. 9:16).
(4) God reveals His glory chiefly through His Son, Jesus Christ, Who secures salvation for His people and overthrows the enemies of His Father. John could write of the glory of God in Jesus,
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)The nature of God is best seen in the person and work of the Lord Jesus, the Son of God. In Jesus we see God in the flesh displayed before us. The Son of God has revealed to us what God is like and what His will is. In His manner, in His teaching, in His deeds, in all His life through all His person, Jesus revealed the glory of God. Of course the glory of God was most fully manifested in the death and resurrection of the Son of God. In Jesus dying on the cross for sinners, the glory of God’s love, grace, mercy, wisdom, power, justice, and goodness is most fully on display. But Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection also glorifies God in that it secured the certain overthrow of God’s enemies and their condemnation in His judgment. Jesus Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. He ascended into heaven and He was given glory in that He was enthroned to rule over heaven and earth. King Jesus even now is the Sovereign Ruler of history. Jesus as Lord is ruling over the nations, using His authority to bring salvation to the ones given to Him from eternity by the Father, and to bring condemnation and damnation to those who refuse to believe and submit to His rule. The Apostle Paul expressed this truth in the form of a question toward those who might reject his assertion:
What if God, willing to show His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory?” (Rom. 9:22f)We are to bear this message to the world of our day. We are to declare to all about us Who God is, that He is the Creator and Ruler over His creation. We are to make known that God has established moral and religious laws by which He expects all of His creatures to abide. We are to make the world understand that all men and women will stand before God on Judgment Day and be judged according to the standard of His law. But we are also to make known far and wide the glorious gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are to publish the good news that there is forgiveness of sins and eternal life to be found in Him. We are to tell people that if they turn from their sins, turning in faith to the Lord and Savior, they may experience the glory of God in their own lives, being graciously forgiven of their sins and being transformed into the glorious moral and spiritual image of Jesus Christ.
III. Third, Christians should seek to keep themselves “unspotted” from the world in which we live. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this,…to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). What we are watching unfold daily before our eyes is a great cause of grief and disappointment. As Lot’s righteous soul was vexed from him living in Sodom, Christians are grieved by what they are witnessing in our increasingly godless and wicked culture. But there is more than just grief associated with a Christian living in a fallen and decadent society; there is danger. Lot’s life became one of compromise and loss. His sense of righteousness, core values, and strength of conviction suffered loss in Sodom. Living in a wicked world will take its toll upon our sensibilities and our values if we are not careful and fail to keep our hearts pure and tender before the Lord. Do not allow the world to shape the moral and spiritual values of your family. Do not view the world’s display of wickedness on television and film. Do not regard as entertainment that which God regards as abominable. Either control what comes into your home and heart, or shut off the source. Do all that you can do to preserve the purity of the consciences of yourselves and your children.
IV. Fourth, know with certainty that God is judging and will continue to judge our nation. Some argue, “God will begin to judge us if we do not turn from our wicked ways.” Wrong. God is already judging us. He is turning us over to our enemies in a measure. Granted, He has given us victories. We thank Him for His mercy and plead for more. But we have no biblical reason to hope for the well being of our nation and its citizens as we continue on our present course. We love our country. We are patriotic. We support our military and president. But as Christians we know with certainty from God’s Word that our land will not prosper while our people refuse to repent of sin and seek God. God is the only true source of security in this fallen world. Whether our people want to accept it or not, God has removed in a measure the protection that we once enjoyed as a nation. Terrorists are as much under the sovereign control of God as any preacher or missionary or church congregation. God is using evil, merciless men, as he once used Sennacherib of Assyria, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, to punish evildoers; they are His “servants” (cf. Isa. 7:17ff; Jer. 25:9). Times and events will only grow worse until and unless there is a deep, thorough, turning to God on the part of our populace and our leaders. 911 did not bring this about. Nor will ten more 911s, unless God in His mercy and grace turns toward us and grants His presence and power to save us from our sin, even from ourselves.
V. As Christians we need not despair, but we are to entrust ourselves to our God Who will bring an end to all of this confusion, violence, and vileness, at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Therefore, be earnest and faithful in prayer. Pray for God’s mercy, grace, and glory to be manifested. Pray for our churches. Pray for our political leaders. Seek to influence the passage of legislation. Be willing to suffer humiliation, ridicule, and rejection, for stating the truth before others. Give God glory for His mercy that he has shown you through the Lord Jesus Christ.
In conclusion, although what we see with our eyes is distressing tends to be disheartening, we should not be pessimistic or discouraged. We are living in days in which the glory of God is being manifested in judgment. Praise be to God for the manifestation of His wisdom, power, and justice in the overturning of wicked men. They will not prosper. They are not “winning.” Their acts of iniquity, their revolting against God’s righteousness, their opposition to the people of God, are all sure signs of their certain and impending overthrow by God. As Paul sought to encourage the Christians of his day, we may encourage one another:
It is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed. Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thess. 1:6-12)Although the destruction of the wicked is certain, let us pray that God’s glory be manifested more greatly in bring salvation to men, women, and children even in these dark days. God is glorified in saving sinners. He is more greatly glorified in saving great sinners. Today, the opportunity for bringing glory to God is perhaps greater for Christians and their churches than any time in recent history. The darker the night, the brighter the light. We have the opportunity before us to manifest the great love, grace, mercy, wisdom, justice and power of God through the salvation of sinners through the gospel, the same gospel that has saved us from our sin. Let us go to sinners, the worst of sinners, as the Lord Jesus Himself modeled for us, and seek to win them to the Savior. May we pray that God use us greatly to glorify Him as we publish the good news that God forgives and saves sinners.