Pope Benedict XVI recently told US Bishops, “The present moment can thus be seen, in positive terms, as a summons to exercise the prophetic dimension of your episcopal ministry by speaking out, humbly yet insistently, in defense of moral truth, and offering a word of hope, capable of opening hearts and minds to the truth that sets us free.”
On another occasion, he said, “No one who looks realistically at our world today could think that Christians can afford to go on with business as usual, ignoring the profound crisis of faith which has overtaken our society, or simply trusting that the patrimony of values handed down by the Christian centuries will continue to inspire and shape the future of our society,”
He was correct on both counts. His truth does not only apply to the business in the Catholic church. It applies to the Christian church as a whole. An entire industry made up of lawyers and bureaucrats is dedicated to pushing Christians in to background of irrelevance. In an attempt to be cooperative and non-confrontational, so many good men have backed away from from the role assigned to us in Matthew 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” (NIV)
This withdrawal from the battle for the soul of our country… and the soul’s of the population has been accompanied by a confusion of who really is the church and who is the mission field. Many have taken the words of Rick Warren as an addendum to the gospel and fled from teachings and symbols that have long marked the presence and influence of God’s people in the land.
Churches have taken down crosses. They have turned their buildings into little more than conference centers. They have adopted Madison Avenue promotion techniques and ridiculous new logos and symbols that leave the viewer with, at best, a vague idea of what they are and what they stand for.
Much preaching, even among television “evangelists” avoids subjects that might be offensive to non-believers. People may be turned off, stop attending and… stop contributing if they are confronted about such things as sin, abortion, homosexuality and corruption. One well known TV preacher who has fallen on hard times often said he only wanted to talk about God’s goodness and didn’t like to deal with the “sin stuff”.
What these well meaning pastors have done is make the mistake of thinking they have a church, the body of Christ, when in reality, they have a mission field before them that needs the straight message from the scripture. It is not surprising then, that much of the church is ineffective, when much of it not really the church at all, but a body in dire need of the whole gospel of grace and truth.
Our country is falling apart. Babies are looked on as an inconvenience and thrown away. We have corruption at all levels of government and industry and hardly anyone seems to be bothered by it. Then, when people do come to God’s house, they do not hear a message that pricks their conscience – they hear one that makes them feel good about themselves.
The late Christian rocker Larry Norman often told his audiences that he heard many people say reading the Bible makes them feel good. Norman said it made him feel bad… as he realized how far he fell short of living up to God’s plan for him. It is only when we, as individuals feel bad about our shortcomings that we will change our ways. It is only when we, as a nation, recognize how far we have fallen and recognize the need to change our ways.
How can we change our ways as a nation if we don’t learn of the difference between right and wrong and the need to pursue right. Allowing us to continue feeling good about ourselves will just keep us going down the path to destruction.
Patriot preachers in the years leading up to the first American revolution were unashamed to expound on the need for godly, principled leadership and the concept that freedom, like all good things, was the gift from our Creator.
Contrary to the revisionist history coming out of academia, these revolutionaries were, for the most part, Christians who heard the words of the likes of John Witherspoon and John Peter Muhlenberg, and understood the dignity and value our Creator invested in each one of us. It was a dignity and value not to be trampled on by a despotic monarch… or any heavy handed, dictatorial government for that matter.
In the late 1700s, powerful preachers led the way to liberty. It can happen again.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed — a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16-17 NIV)
We have gotten ourselves in the mess we are in because we have strayed from the Biblical principles and values that led us to greatness. It is only by returning to these values we can survive as a free society. How, then, can we return to these values unless we have courageous pastors to preach the unapologetic word? The side effect of the revival that will save our country is that there will be far fewer of our friends and neighbors regretting their eternal destination. Isn’t that the point of preaching in the first place?