Monday, December 23, 2013

Pre-Christmas Ramblings

It's been an interesting Christmas season thus far. If I have to be honest, it's been quite a while now since Christmas has had the same "magic" as it did when I was younger. (And don't start in surprise at my use of the term "magic," - I don't mean it in the way you think I mean). I'm talking about that sense of excitement and wonder that most kids have at Christmas, assuming you come from a family that is not completely dysfunctional.

Instead, in more recent years—especially as my Christian faith has matured—I've been much more able to be contemplative and reflective on the meaning of Christmas. It's a meaning that far transcends the story of the Nativity and the general warm, fuzzy platitudes we hear about it. It's the beginning of God's work through His Son, but not the entire work. God the Son—God Incarnate—took the form of a man to come to earth to save His people from their sins. And after saving them, to conform them into His image and likeness, to be His ambassadors to a fallen world in enemy-occupied territory, until the fulness of the Gentiles is complete and He completes His plan at His Second Coming, the gateway to eternity. And that I find more wondrous than anything, but it's not the same wonder a child has at the excitement of presents the next morning, with the Lord Jesus in the background.

I have to confess a bit of frustration also. Events both in my immediate vicinity and globally challenge the message of hope, joy and peace that we want to share. I have been on Twitter and Facebook for some time, and here we are, two days before Christmas. I can't believe the general grumpiness and vitriol that is out there. And quite a lot of it is an all-out assault on the Christian faith itself. The Duck Dynasty flap, the activist atheist haters out there putting up billboards at Christmas for no other reason than to be ugly..other dustups..the ongoing political turmoil over Obamacare..pick your poison. Maybe I'm wrong, but it just seems worse than ever this year. And it's sad.

The strange thing is, I shouldn't be shocked. I shouldn't be surprised. The Lord Himself warned us through His Word that we would have difficult times in the last days. Things are happening precisely as He said they would. Yet, I have to echo the words of a dear pastor over in Belarus, a former Soviet country that has a very authoritarian, oppressive government—a government that tolerates little dissent and keeps a very heavy hand on the churches and their ability to worship and share their faith as Christ commanded. The pastor was addressing a congress of other pastors, and he said, "I thought we had more time."

It's sobering, and I find myself saying the same thing. It is truly breathtaking to see how much things have deteriorated in the United States in just five years. Many will be tempted to blame the advance of the homosexual movement for a lot of it, saying that it is bringing God's judgment on the nation. While there may well be truth in that, I think we have to be honest and admit that the problem began long before the homosexual rights movement began gaining steam.

The problem really began when heretofore solid evangelical churches began fudging on key doctrines like inerrancy, the substitutionary atonement, the concept of absolute, revelatory truth, and the nature of the Gospel itself. Once those compromises began, evangelical churches began to fall into the same morass as the mainline churches did years ago. When churches get away from preaching and teaching—without compromise—the clear message of God's Word, drift begins, and the domino effects throughout society begin.

So tomorrow is Christmas Eve. The next day is Christmas. I will be celebrating and thanking God for the fact that my Savior came to earth to buy my pardon. I look forward to His return. And I will be wondering what the new year will bring us? Are we ready? Will we keep standing in the face of what is sure to be a stepped up onslaught of all we hold dear? Will we be able to proclaim the truth we believe, yet with a gentle heart and spirit, with love, grace and mercy, and without any self-righteousness? Or will we go along and get along? Compromise. And eventually drift away?

I thank God for His promise to build His church, and to hold on to His remnant. He will complete the work He began in His people, and His purpose will not be thwarted. But that doesn't mean that we're not going to have a rough time before it's realized. Be ready for it.

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