Restless, discontent, and fearful, our culture feverishly seeks change. The blessed church of our Savior also desires change, though not for its own sake but that the whole world may be transformed by the splendor of his glory. Many within her beautiful walls see huge cracks in her doctrinal foundations and gaping holes in the walls of her faith, practice, and worship; they wish to repair them. Some are more outward looking and encourage the church to be engaged with the surrounding culture that she may recover her God-given position as the light of the world.
There were in the days of the Reformation an influential group of men dubbed by the faithful as “Libertines.” While professing to be Christians, they made a mockery of true religion. For them, grace was a license to sin. Let the godly preachers say what they might about obedience to God’s holy law, and the Libertines responded with mantras still among us today: grace, freedom, Holy Spirit.
The hawkers of human happiness constantly call: buy this, take this, do this, look like this, and all your troubles will vanish. While we sense that these are lies, fallen human nature craves nothing more than to be flattered and caressed. Thus, we are often tempted to listen to these sirens, with at least half an ear, thinking that there may be something to them, some key to joy they have found but we have missed. There is not; they are utterly empty. Joy and peace on man’s terms is the delusion of fools and the hope of rebels.
The Lord seems to be orchestrating events in the West so that his true church is driven back before his throne by the sheer force of swirling calamities: “”When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isa. 26:9). Current economic realities, as an example of God’s present working, must be taken seriously, for they touch upon far more basic needs than cable television and nice automobiles, but healthy food and safe water, even the ability to provide these for your family with available and legitimate work.
Whatever condition or situation in which we find ourselves, however much our hearts are broken, our expectations crushed under the weight of affliction, we must never cease calling upon the Lord. All our help and hope in such times lies in making our plea to our Father, waiting upon him, and trusting his promises. Though in frustration our first tendency is to rush to find a solution, any solution, or run away and hide, or seek forgetfulness through distraction and vanity, trouble has not come upon us accidentally.
Of all the truths revealed to us in God’s word, few are more uplifting to depressed spirits, more able to quiet fear and worry, give patience in adversity, and fill our hearts with joy and confidence as the unshakeable assurance that our heavenly Father sits at the helm of the universe, governing all things by his wisdom, power, and goodness.
“In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1 Thess. 5:18). This remarkable line teaches us, first, that in every season of life, in the good times and in the evil, having been delivered by God’s hand or laid low, subjected to tyranny or enjoying liberty, health or illness, prosperity or poverty, a mansion or a shack, having godly children or wayward ones, loving or hating your present employment, skinny or fat, beautiful or ugly, having obtained victory over temptation or fallen into sin, we are to give thanks to God.
“Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness” (Ps. 112:4). The godly will have their share of afflictions in this life; none is exempt. Presently, the darkness around us is deepening. The visible church lacks clarity and conviction on fundamental doctrines, practice, and methodology. Duty calls us to take action but our hearts are cold or cowardly, uncertain or confused. Temptations abound. The daily news gives little comfort: more economic hardship, corruption and utter folly in leaders and parties, mindless violence, titillating sensuality.
Aroused from their dazed and troubled slumbers, the disciples, now reduced by one, behold the Lord going forth to meet his captors. “Whom seek ye,” he boldly asks. He will not be taken on their terms, under cover of night, but forces the issue and will have them publicly identify their intended victim. And they must seize him alone, for not only will he lose none of his, but he is also the great High Priest now arrived the hour for which he came, resolved to obtain our redemption, ready to crush the serpent’s head.
Faithful practice of church discipline would revive the church of the Lord Jesus Christ in many vital ways. The evil leaven of false professors who walk in habitual, unrepentant violation of God’s word would be removed, thus halting sin’s spread throughout the entire body. Each true child of God would tremble at this manifest token of our Savior’s presence in our midst (Acts 5:11; Rev. 2:1-5), guard his own heart and life more carefully, and take far more seriously the responsibility to “restore those who are overtaken in a fault” (1 Cor. 6:1).