Tuesday, May 22, 2012

...reacting biblically to the disintegration of our culture

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.
Aside from these specifics, we are continuing to witness the general declension of our moral values and cultural institutions. Marriage is viewed only as an option, entered into only after two people live together in sin. To view sexual activity as restricted to the marriage relationship is an archaic idea. Pre-marital sex is the norm. Virginity until marriage is rare. Of course, broken homes, multiple divorce and remarriage, are common. Scarcely can a family be found which as been untouched by the tragedy and consequences of a broken marriage.

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.



scripturesearcher said...

A great Biblical sermom especially for these perilous times in our wild, weird, wacky, wayward world!

ann_in_grace said...

We need such preachers in Sweden, as well. The description of moral decay fits this country perfectly.
The Church of Sweden promotes gay female bishops, and is soon going to give blessings to gay couples. It has been a while since this church preached the Gospel...

gigantor1231 said...

SJ Camp

I have looked at this situation that we are in and it has been a frustrating topic for me, until one day I decided that I am one who is not at home in this place, in the world but not of the world. This does not mean that I am not active in my society but that I have a future and a hope to look to rather than shrink in despair because I am part of a dieing world.
I would have to say, though, that the most frustrating and disconcerting thing to me has been those that claim to be Christian and yet they deny all that the word is;

2Tim 3:5

5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!

I know that this must happen before the end of all things of this world comes but it is still a hard pill to swallow. I am so thankful that I have the word of God and the Holy Spirit to guide me, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is truly the only hope in a darkening world! I wonder how close we are to midnight?

Anonymous said...

Steve: Thanks for this. I have been praying passionately and near constantly for Obama to lose this election but have been facing despair in my own heart about the fact that as you say, apart from God's drect intervention, he will most likley be elected.

This post was an encouragement to me and reminds me once again of God's complete reign over the affairs of men.

May God's will be done and may His name be glorified in the earth.


Rick Frueh said...

All nations, left to the carnal dictates of fallen men and women, will not have to look for the judgment of God since their sins will judge themselves. A nation operates under the curse collectively, and especially a pluralistic nation which espouses openly many gods and idols.

The tragedy and disgrace is that mirroring the fallen society is God's church. Judgment will begin there, and the judgment to the lost will be at the Great White Throne. We as believers should be ferful and repentant concerning the present judgment of God upon His own people as we lose our children, lose our power, lose our message, lose our prayer closets, lose our zeal, lose our seperateness, lose our families, and generally have lost the favor and anointing of our Heavenly Father.

That judgment should keep us awake in the night watches, beseeching and imploring God to reign righteousness upon us once again. As we suggest God is judging America, God is saying to the church "Thou art the man...".

The sins that run rampant throughout this land are a direct result of the compromise and unsalty nature of the church that continues to exist under a culture shaped bushel.

Anonymous said...

There is ultimately no hope in the princes of this world.

It will all crumble and die and return to dust.

Do we not fight? Of course we fight, knowing all along that our true hope and victory is in Christ and in Him alone.

Rick Frueh said...

Steve - let me say as one who is decidedly apolitical that this election should make all Americans proud, regardless of the issues. When black soldiers returned from Vietnam some were refused rides from the airport in white cabs, refused sets at airport restaurants, and generally treated as second class citizens, even though they had risked their lives for this country.

The fact that a black man could even be close to being elected is an astounding revelation of racial maturity, and Obama's story, issues aside, is a breathtaking narrative that most would have considered impossible.

I believe he will goverment much more moderately than most liberals will hope, but I pray for him and his conversion and that the Spirit of God will revive His people to realize again that some trust in chariots, some trust in horses, but we will trust in the Name of the Lord our God!

Reform said...

Tremendous article and thank you to Pastor Lars!

I just commented on another blog and so many there seem conflicted about how they should vote as Christians in this election?

Is there really a choice for Bible-believing born again Christians on who to support? I mean, it's not that hard is it? One candidate is for protecting the lives of all people (born and unborn); and one supports the murder of the unborn.

It's that simple isn't it?

Denise said...

Its always right to point Christians to Scripture and remind us of our Great God! I'm so glad when that is done. He is our anchor through perilous times for sure.

But there's only one thing I must take acception to and that's where I see Christians lowering the standard on abortion. The two presidential candidates are both for abortion, but one is for abortion only in certain circumstances.

The problem is that abortion is always wrong, in all circumstances, because murder is always wrong according to Scripture. Less murder is still murder, if I can put it in those terms.

My prayer is that Christians strive to be faithful to biblical doctrine in all areas (me included) and therefore be consistant in application: consistancy here would be that neither top picks are worthy of our vote because both violate God's standard on murdering babies.

Our fear should never be the opposition but should be the Living God.

May we fear God, vote biblically, and not compromise.

Be loyal to Christ alone at any cost. Stand for His pure truth.

We are citizens of heaven and serve a Sovereign God. Let us keep HIS standard high and not compromise and become pragmatic out of fear of man or the future. Remember Daniel. =)

Jeremiah 17:5, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord.’”

Reform said...

Taking a cue from this post, I made this comment at another blog this evening about Obama becoming elected as President.

We can also pray for President-elect Obama's salvation.

We can also pray that he would repent of his barbaric and ungodly beliefs concerning all means of abortion which murders 3,500+ children everyday.

We can also pray that justice and righteousness would return to our land through its political leaders.

And we must not forget that the Lord does use unrighteous leaders of governments to bring judgment upon a nation as well. Tonight's election, though historic, I fear is just that: God's judgment upon our land.

SJ Camp said...

Those are helpful things as well to pray for.

As I stated in my opening comments here, I do believe that Mr. Obama could be used by the Lord in bringing judgment to this nation. I hope I am wrong, but it is a real possibility.

But I agree with your first point especially: let us all pray that he comes to know the Lord Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

Romans 13,

tymann said...

Even the Church has gone soft on sin. Those who truly believe and act like Christians are considered backward. The media bombards us with that which defiles our minds. Even mainstream Christians are somewhat obsessed with sex, and that which was once between ourselves, our mates and God, is now open for discussion. The STDs that continue to multiply, may not be judgement, but they are a natural progression. Thanks for being a voice of truth.

Tyler Manners

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