This last year – this last half of a year – has been a roller coaster in Christian circles.
Josh Harris, a bit of a legend in more conservative Christian circles for his book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”, apostatized.
Then, Kanye announced he was born again, only to write gospel-centered songs, speaking about sin and Jesus as Lord, even inviting solid pastors with ultra-conservative theology (by today’s standards) to his Sunday services to preach.
And yet… the research was just released by Pew Research Center that the decline of Christianity continues at a rapid pace.
Another dip in our ongoing roller coaster.
In come the eschatological (end times) views. If you are unfamiliar with the different camps, I don’t blame you – frankly, I only have a vague understanding of the specifics, and that’s partly by choice.
So you can imagine, with the ride of this roller coaster, everyone has something to say in how it relates to the end times, and with quite a bit of certainty.
(It’s times like these that I think, perhaps we know too much. Before the age of the internet, we would have gone about our lives dealing with those in our immediate circles, free from this wealth of national and international information, free from our our sense of obligation to reason and derive predictions from it all.)
So, do we rejoice? Do we grieve? Do we frantically prepare for the end? How do we respond?
Remember, remember, remember
Before moving forward with anything, we must follow the pattern of scripture: remember.
Remember the promises. Remember the patterns. Remember the foundations.
If “no one knows the day or the hour” (Matthew 24:36), we can move back from the edge of our seats to sit fully in the sovereignty of God, faithfully working with our hands with eyes set heavenward on our blessed hope (1 Thessalonians 4:11-18), spreading the good news as instructed (Matthew 28:19), living as active ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) and living sacrifices (Romans 12:1), advancing the kingdom in our souls and, by extension, the little worlds God has allotted us for this short time.
So, let us remember the promises of God’s presence, the promises of God’s sovereignty, and the duties we are given in His word for today.
So teach us to number our daysPsalm 90:12
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Expect What Is To Be Expected
When humans do anything, it is important to view it in light of biblical anthropology. And when that human behavior seems extreme or shocking, a good place to start is this: “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9.)
After that, we must remember that sin is the slave master and God is the emancipator (Romans 6:16-18).
So, when Joshua Harris apostatizes, we grieve, but also soberly remember that ascent to knowledge of the good news does not equate to salvific understanding. Apostasies are not only predicted, but explained: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” (1 John 2:19.) It is wholly possible for someone to perform signs of a true conversion, but it is only a mask.
And when our friend, known by few outside our community, who we grew up with in the faith, declares they no longer believe and follows the world, we grieve and submit our sorrowful shock to the feet of God’s throne.
Now, when a sinner comes to repentance, heaven rejoices (Luke 15:7).
So, when Kanye, who once called himself “more famous than Jesus” begins preaching the message “Jesus is King”, we rejoice with heaven’s hosts.
And when our neighbor, known only in our small town, who once lived for themselves declares that Jesus is their life, we rejoice with heaven’s hosts.
And, we give credit where credit is due: the Holy Spirit. For only God can replace a heart of stone with a heart of flesh. Not a single apostasy is a result of our failure to keep them in, but simply the Spirit displaying it is by Him, and Him alone, that salvation is found. Not a single conversion is a result of or reward for our diligent work, but a blessing of the Spirit (Ephesians 2:8-9).
I am not saying that our actions are not used or don’t have consequences. But let us humbly remind ourselves – and take comfort in the fact – that it is “only God who gives the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:7.)
I am speaking to the western/American audience here. These reports and celebrity events are taking place here, in America. To be frank, it is foolish to see any of these individual events as global indicators of what God is doing. Consider the rest of the world, the men and women converting and apostatizing on a daily basis that we do not even hear of.
We need to have a much smaller view of ourselves and our comprehension of all time, and adopt a much bigger view of God’s ways, so that we can leave those things up to Him.
[bctt tweet="We need to have a much smaller view of ourselves and our comprehension of all time, and adopt a much bigger view of God's ways, so that we can leave these things up to Him."]
But we also need to think eternally, and in light of eternity, realize how short our time is here. Instead of debating and wondering how it will end or what one person’s conversion means (sidenote: no single person since Jesus has ever changed the course of redemptive and eschatological history, and they never will – no one is that important), we ought to focus on what God has given us to be faithful with, here, and now. Although everyone has been entrusted with a different community, church, and connections, the basics still stand:
- Spread the gospel
- Study the word
- Fight sin
- Fix our eyes on Jesus
- Do justice by serving our fallen world
… and these things all will flow into our individual “ought to’s” assigned to us.
In regards to our smallness, our calling to faithfulness, and the coming of the Lord – James has much to say, and I will let his words conclude this post.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.James 3:13-17
Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.James 5:7-10