Monday, April 25, 2016

A Call to Return

     Currently, I am reading a very thought provoking book entitled "Here We Stand" edited by James Montgomery Boice.  I came across it in an email by the Alliance for Confessing Evangelicals and it looked to shed some light on recent discussions we have had in our office.  We frequently discuss the awful news we hear every day and the question is raised, "How can people do things like that?"  It is a valid question as more and more our culture seems to be sinking into decay.  The values we once held dear are disappearing.  Morals have become whatever a person believes is right for himself.  As a result, we see our nation in decline.
     While this book was written in 1996, the insight applies to us today.  A number of authors lent their wisdom to this tome including:  Michael Horton, David Wells, Sinclair Ferguson, R. Albert Mohler, Gene Edward Veith, W. Robert Godfrey and Ervin Duggan.  By no means are they lightweights when it comes to an understanding of where Christians stand in the midst of a crumbling world. The subtitle of the book is:  "A Call from Confessing Evangelicals for a Modern Reformation".  Indeed, this is what we need today in the church of Jesus Christ.  Somehow instead of being a light and the salt, we have lost our savor as the body of Christ.  For some time now, my husband and I have felt a drifting away from the solid foundation which was laid upon Jesus Christ the corner stone among believers.  We have become too complacent and instead of influencing our world we have let the culture influence us.
     In his essay, Ervin Duggan points out that our nation was really founded on two streams of thought.  One was the Judeo-Christian precepts and the other (which came out of the Enlightenment) was the classical thought which came out of Greek philosophy.  We had, as he put it, "a moral vocabulary" which everyone spoke and understood (pg. 45 "The Living Church" in Here We Stand).
Now, however, our culture is drinking from another stream not at all in line with classical or biblical waterways.  Ours is a culture of moral relativism, "self-realization", political correctness, and acceptance of every strange behavior or thought that comes down the pike.  This has led our office discussions to query if everyone has lost their mind, and in one sense, man has lost more than his mind.  He is also a lost soul without Jesus Christ.
     Though we may despair over the things we see, they have all been seen before.  The Apostle Paul faced a culture that was pagan, worshipping idols, and as filled with sin as ours.  Remember the words of Solomon who said that there is nothing new under the sun.  When man tries to do things in his own way (being his own god and center of the universe), he will ultimately find no answers to the big questions of life.  This is the perfect time for a new Reformation in the church.  I am not suggesting that we throw out all the traditional modes of worship or even of evangelism.  To the contrary, what seems to have happened over time is that we have begun to look for new methods to get people in the door.  The "Church Growth Movement", "Seeker Sensitive Service", entertainment instead of true worship and countless other ways have been tried.  New Christian books have been written every day suggesting how to reach this new culture in which we live.  Yet, what about going back to the foundation of our faith?
     In His letter to the Ephesians, Paul wrote this in chapter 2:19-22:   "19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit."  Our foundation was built on the apostles and prophets who foretold of the cornerstone Jesus Christ.   The message is simple.  Jesus came.  He taught us about the Father and lived a perfect life.  He died for our sins in our place, and He rose again to claim victory over sin and death.  All of this is recorded for us in the Bible.  Yet, we are always trying to improve this message by adding frills to make it more attractive.
     Scripture is more than sufficient to reach people.  Jesus said this as recorded in both Matthew and Luke:  "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away" (Matthew 24:35).  Then, Isaiah the prophet spoke these words from God (chapter 55:11):  "11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."  At times, I believe we have forgotten that God's inspired Word is far more powerful than any new methods we can come up with to bring people in the door.  I have heard church leaders wonder why people are going out the back door as fast as they come in the front door.  Could it be that they are attracted only by the entertainment, building or some other catchy frill, and when this gets boring, they head out to another attractive place?  Jesus made it clear that His Word was a stumbling block.  In fact, the Pharisees frequently could not stand the truth that the Lord clearly shared, and Peter affirmed this when he wrote:  "7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”[a] 8 and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”[b]
They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for." (I Peter 2:7-8).  Candy coating the truth will not make it go down the throat of someone who has not been regenerated by the Spirit of God.  We can be as "hip" or cool as we want to attract the current culture, but ultimately, it is God and His Word that changes the heart.  Otherwise, all we are doing is entertaining people to death.
     If we as Christians believe in the all sufficiency of Scripture as the foundation of our faith, then we need to preach it, teach it, sing it, and pray it as well as share it on a regular basis in relationship with others.  This is how we bring about a new reformation.  With this in mind, I encourage you to get a copy of this timely book which speaks so clearly to where we are today.  Reformation Resources or Amazon have this book in paperback or your church library might have a copy.  However, I like to underline what I am reading so you may want to have a copy for yourself.
     Now is the day of salvation and there is no time like the present for the church as a whole to return to its one foundation.  As the book of Hebrews admonishes us in 12:1:  "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us..."   May we be runners for God's glory and may we like Peter say:  "For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God..." (I Peter 4:17).  Selah!

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