Looking ahead?

December 28, 2009 at 9:07 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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Ok…Christmas is over and things are starting to settle down. It’ll be another week or so before the credit card bills become a priority and you’ve still got a couple of days before the big New Year’s celebration. What do most people do during this time? They begin to look ahead. For the next month or so, you’ll see ad after ad telling you that they have the very thing that you’re looking for to make the new year go your way. Wanna lose weight? There will be a dozen different new weight loss machines on the market before you can say “couch potato”. Want to better your finances? There are programs and companies that want to help you get you money woes under control (including the huge debt you just built up). Want to see your marriage change? There are books, CDs, and counselors waiting for you to pick them up, pop them in, or give them a call so that they can spend the next 30 days getting your relationship in the best shape its ever been. And, once you choose which of the myriad new eye dazzlers will garner your attention, you can spend a little time plotting your course with fervor and determination because you know that this is your year.

I can’t help but wonder if all of this is really necessary? What are the real motives behind much of this New Year’s barrage? Seems like it’s just one more way for someone to try and make money. Do the methods work? I’m sure for some people they do, but is it “sure-fire” for everyone like the ad copy says? I doubt it. I also can’t help but wonder if ahead is the direction that we need to pour all of this effort (even though it’s really only a few days). Looking over scripture, I see something different and I hope that it helps balance all of the new fad hype.

Throughout the Bible, there have been many times in the narrative where new things have happened. Times when God’s people have had to face tough challenges and take a good hard look at themselves. One time that sticks out in my mind is the Exodus. The people of God started out as just one man’s family, albeit a big one. It was Israel’s family that was taken into the promised land. This is something that Abraham was told back when he made the covenant with God in Genesis 15. God specifically told him then that his descendants would be enslaved for 400 years. When Joseph was sold into slavery to the Egyptians, it started the whole thing off. After the trials and tribulations he went through, he finally came before Pharaoh and warned him of the famine. Because of his godly wisdom, Joseph was placed as 2nd in command of all of Egypt. As the famine grew worse, Joseph’s family eventually was brought into Egypt and given the best of the land. After Joseph died, there came another Pharoah who didn’t know him and saw the power of the Israelites (who were hundreds of thousands strong by now). He feared that they would join with an outside attacker and destroy Egypt. So, to keep their minds off of revolting, he made them slaves and forced them to do the hard labor that he required of them.

At the appointed time, God answered the cries of the beleaguered Israelites and sent them Moses to deliver them. Moses, obeying God, warned Pharoah of what would happen if he didn’t let God’s people go. Sadly, Pharaoh was too stubborn and wouldn’t heed the warning. God sent 10 plagues on the land of Egypt and everything in it except the Israelites. The final plague (death of the firstborn in every house without blood on the doorposts) was what finally broke Pharoah and he let the Hebrews go. After all of this and many other trials as Israel travelled through the wilderness for 40 years, they reached the Promised Land. Before they entered, Moses gathered all of the people and spoke to them. When he spoke, he reminded them of all of the things that their people had gone through from Abraham to the very generation he was speaking to. He reminded them of all the hardship that they brought on themselves through disobedience to God. He reminded them of the promises they made and then broke. He reminded them of all of the things that God did to them because of their disobedience and how it affected them. He told them of their rich history and reminded them of the joy of following God and worshipping Him.

There are many others who did the same. In the Psalms that he wrote, David often did the same thing and reminded those who heard the psalms sung or read them when they were put into print what their history was. In the New Testament, we see the same thing. After Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended on those gathered in the upper room, Peter healed a lame man by the gate Beautiful and all of the people marveled. When he saw this he rebuked them and reminded them of their history. He told them of how the prophets of old had spoken of Jesus as the Messiah and Son of Life (Acts 3:12-24). He also told them that all of the prophets from Samuel on had spoken of the very days that they were living in. Not long after this, Stephen was dragged before the council for preaching the gospel. When asked by the Sanhedrin if it was true, Stephen stood and gave an elegant and pointed refresher on the history of Israel to those who were the most well versed on it! Why? Because he wanted to remind them of where they came from and what God promised them. He wanted them to remember the Messiah was foretold thousands of years before their time. He also reminded them that it was they who received the law and didn’t keep it; that it was they who killed the Messiah. Because of this, Stephen was rushed out of the city and stoned to death (Acts 7).

At a time when our nation is falling apart and the American church has lost its purpose and forsaken the one thing that sets it apart and sanctifies it, I think that we need to look back at our history as much, if not more, than we need to plan for the future. I’m not saying that we need to get “trapped in the past”. I am saying that it’s only by knowing our history that we can better prevent mistakes in the future (especially the same ones!). If the church knew its history going all the way back to Adam and were convinced that it is the truth, we wouldn’t see the utter mockery that we do in the church today. We wouldn’t be the weak, watered down people that we are not worrying about the eternal destination of others. We wouldn’t be the laughing stock of the world and the butt of all its jokes. Instead, we would have churches where God is glorified. We would have pastors who thundered from the pulpit the dangers of sin and hell while expounding on the grace and mercy of God. They would rightly divide the Word of truth and know that it is the only thing that will save a soul. They would hate sin and understand that God’s wrath abides on the sinner. They would disdain the “sermon series” and “relevancy” and focus on speaking the absolute truth the way that God has already said it. Those who sat in these churches would understand what it means to be a true Christian and would fulfill their calling with vigor, knowing that the people they share the true gospel with could be hearing it for the last time. They would be bold witnesses for Christ and be unashamed of what that means. They wouldn’t waffle when someone who believes something different attacked what they believed. Instead they would have the answers and leave the attacker in a state of shock and bewilderment that God’s existence is so obvious and His wrath is so near to them. THIS is only the beginning of what would happen if the church knew its history.

What if Christians knew of the stories of all the people who have been murdered for the sake of the gospel. People like Polycarp, Athanasius, Ignatius, Thomas Becket, Jan Huss, William Tyndale, Nicholas Ridley, and Hugh Latimer. This not to mention the untold millions who have died just in the last two centuries or those who are dying TODAY. Things would be different indeed. Ungodly men would tremble at the mere thought of meeting one of these Christians. They would fear these men, not because of the men themselves, but because of the God they served and represented. Like the Philistines saw David after Goliath’s death, so would the hard hearted men of our day come completely unglued. Not only that – men, women, and children would receive the gift of salvation by the thousands seeking these Christians out because they have the only hope for any of us. This is what the world needs. This is what America needs. This is what your family needs. Christians who are looking back at the “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) and remembering their history while looking ahead to the salvation of souls and to the ultimate return of the Lord Jesus Christ who saved their wretched souls. If all Christians can do with the new year is hope for a little more money and a little less fat, then something is really wrong. PLAY THE MAN!

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