The coddled Western world will sooner or later give way to great affliction. And when it does, whose God will hold? Where are Christians being prepared for great global sorrows? Where is the Christian mind and soul being prepared for horrors to come? Christians in the West are weakened by wimpy worldviews. And wimpy worldviews make wimpy Christians. God is weightless in our lives. He is not terrifying magnificent. His sovereignty is secondary [at best] to his sensitivity. John Piper: “Spectacular Sins”
When I left the pastorate some years ago, I knew I would miss my church family, but I had no idea how much. The privilege of feeding and leading such an awesome church family was a great and satisfying pleasure. Now I spend most of my time reading and writing alone in my study. But, it occurred to me over the holidays, that God has given me a “pulpit” through writing, that not only reaches my Santa Barbara family, but my extended family of over forty years of ministry. What a privilege! It is my prayer that GMTB will be used by God to help you to know and experience His awesome glory and grace that is known through believing and trusting in the Christ of Scripture.
If you visit evangelical churches across the nation, I think I am safe in saying that the vast majority of sermons you will hear will focus upon encouragement. Certainly, the members in the congregation need to know that God cares and that they can throw all of their cares upon Jesus because he cares for them. But, what if Piper is right? What if we are suddenly engulfed with a series of unbelievable horrors? Will believing in a sensitive God be enough?
The times are ominous. The international financial meltdown has shaken confidence and created instability around the world. Radical terrorists are actively searching for some way to wreak havoc upon America. A “dirty bomb” placed in a strategic place could yield hundreds of thousands of casualties. We saw what that devastating attack upon the Twin Towers did to our nation, not only financially but psychologically. Then, we also see a hostility in America toward Christianity that is increasing in intensity and pervasiveness. Is it not a strong likelihood that persecution will greatly intensify and increase in the days ahead?
These thoughts are not generated merely by negativism or speculation. Numerous scriptures describe great affliction that will rock the Church in the last days. Jesus told his disciples, “In this world you will have trouble.” Paul and Barnabas gave a similar warning to the churches around Antioch: “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” [Acts 14:22] Revelation describes martyrs who conquered the devil “by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” Paul tells Timothy that “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” [2 Tim 3:12-13]
Given those realities, I think we face some crucial questions. How do we prepare for such horrific times? How can we wrestle with principalities and powers and still be found standing when the acrid smoke of evil clears? Don’t we need to hear sermons that go beyond the sensitivity of God, as wonderful as that is? Is it not crucial that we hear teaching that declares the awesome sovereignty of God and prepares us for the intense battles that are coming upon our world? Don’t we need to know a God who reigns and controls all things, even global catastrophes and personal tragedies, when darkness is so heavy it hides the face of the sun?
The answer to all of those important questions ultimately must terminate on Jesus Christ and his supremacy. Paul wrote this about him: “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. [Col 1:16-17]Here we see that Jesus Christ is the creator of all things, including “thrones,” “powers” and “authorities.” Not only were all things created by him, they were created for him. That means everything and every person and every power exist to serve the purposes of God and his purpose to glorify his son Jesus Christ through them.
In Ephesians 1:11, Paul adds another awesome truth: “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” Not only do all powers submit to the rule of Christ, he so orders every event that each brings about exactly what he determined would happen in eternity past. That means that financial meltdowns, terrorists’ dirty bombs and even demonically inspired persecutions are ordered and controlled by God’s sovereign will and purpose.
It is so crucial for us to know that God is completely in control over all powers and all events. He is not surprised nor is he overwhelmed by tragedy or calamity. He does not have to go to plan “B”. If you need the perfect illustration of that truth, look at the cross. In the darkest and most tragic of events in the history of the world, where it appeared that evil had triumphed and good was trashed, God’s glory was trumpeted. It was God’s eternal plan to use the devil’s ugliest demonstration of evil to bring about God’s greatest manifestation of his glory. “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” [Col 2:14-15]
So, when we are being shaken by the latest shock wave of terrible news, it is comforting to know that “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.” [Psalm 33:11]Our lives are not random nor are they meaningless. We may not understand how he rules in any certain circumstance, for “How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable are his ways!” But we can be confident of one thing: “For from him and through him and to him are all things.” So, we can say in every situation, “To him be glory forever.” [Romans 11:33,36]
How, then, should we face the approaching dark days? First, we should not be surprised. Fiery trials are a part of what it means to be a soldier of Christ. [1 Peter 4:12] Second, we must prepare for evil days. We must be self controlled and alert [1 Peter 5:8] and prepare our minds for action [1 Peter 1:13] and put on the armor of God [Ephesians 6:10-20]. Third, We must stand tuff and not give up an inch of ground. We must resist the devil, standing firm in the faith. [1 Peter 5:9]. Fourth, we should expect that God will provide us everything we need to be more than conquerors. [Romans 8: 32] Fifth, we can be at peace knowing that nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ. [Romans 8:35-39] Sixth, we must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ [2 Tim. 2:3], filled with the hope that is found in the promised return of our Lord Jesus Christ. [1 Thes. 1:13] Seventh, we must live and fight boldly, knowing that God’s ultimate and glorious purpose for us can never be thwarted by the devil, or darkness or even death.
Finally, we must build our lives upon the truth that is only found in God’s Book. Christianity is not a game. It is filled with awesome realities and terrifying consequences. We will need more than therapeutic techniques to get us through the days ahead. Our greatest need is not psychological welfare but preparation for spiritual warfare. Build your house on the rock of the great objective truth that Jesus is Lord and sovereign over all powers and all events, for his eternal praise and our eternal joy. Then we will stand strong in the midst of the enemy’s darkness. Our faith will shine forth and manifest the awesome power of God’s grace to the praise of the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Dr. Gary Rieben. © Give Me That Book. Email: Grieben@aol.com. Website: www.GiveMeThatBook.org. Postal: GMTB | P.O. Box 1045| La Quinta, CA 92247 USA | 619.829.2390
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