So I offer a few thoughts a week late – with the hope that this brief article will provide ballast for your pastoral ship in the rough seas ahead.
1. God is on the throne.
God has NEVER lost control of his universe. Wrap your mind around this, get it into your heart, pray over it, believe it – and you’ll sleep like Jesus in the bottom of any storm battered boat.
I offer two passages that are a constant help to me when it feels like the world has gone mad.
Isaiah 46:8-11 – Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purpose, and I will do it.
In case you don’t know the context, God is speaking both of judgment and redemption in the book of Isaiah. I don’t pretend in my pulpit, or in this paper, to understand the secret counsels and purposes of God. But I stand fast on the fact that nothing has occurred which God did not ordain – not even a 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court.
Proverbs 16:33 – The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.
I don’t think I need to take the time to spell this out. If you believe in the inspiration and authority of scripture like I do, you will recognize that God makes the claim that nothing is random, nothing is chance. God is in control.
2. Unless you’re ‘post-millennial’ these cultural shifts are to be expected.
The church of a century ago was reeling at the suddenness and ferocity of the Great War. Most churches of 1915 held some form of ‘Post-Millennialism’, the belief that culture would become progressively more ‘Christianized’ until Christian’s held the majority position, ushering in the second coming of Christ. The advent of a World War destroyed that confidence – a cursory reading of scripture should have destroyed it before WW1 had the chance.
We are not a ‘post-millennial’ people. It is going to get dark before the end… really dark. I’m not ready to call the game yet. I think the warnings of final Armageddon coming from some parts of America might be premature (and incredibly American-centric – why would God bring Armageddon based on the US decision and not on the Irish decision a month earlier or the Canadian decision years ago). I would counsel you to pray and preach in the hopes of revival – but realize that even revival is a mixed blessing. Every awakening has faded, and mingled with genuine conversion are false conversions – yet I cannot help but pray that God might be gracious and merciful to my generation and come down in power. That is what I pray for, and that is how I preach.
But remember what Paul warned Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 - But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
ARE YOU SUGGESTING THESE ARE THE LAST DAYS? Yes. And these last days may extend well beyond your natural life-span, so get some ballast in the bottom of your boat, buckle down to faithful exposition of the Word of God, and preach so that you will not be ashamed if you are called to give an account tomorrow or in forty years for the souls God has entrusted to you.
3. There is not, nor has there ever been, a Christian nation.
We are waking from a strange time in the history of the church – a time of relative peace and complacency; a time when pastors were honoured and respected in the public square. But there are no Christian nations, there never has been one. To be a Christian nation, an entire nation would have to love God with all its heart – it would have to govern itself like a theocracy and every citizen would have to be regenerate and submitted to the will of God’s Spirit.
Jesus warned us to expect this. John 15:18 - If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it has hated you. Reflecting on the words of Jesus, the apostle John writes in I John 3:13 – Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.
Yet we seem absolutely astounded that culture has turned on Christian morality. We seem flummoxed that we are being mocked, ridiculed and treated with contempt. Get used to it – it’s the default setting of the world. If your Lord stood before an angry mob bruised, bloody, with Roman spit dripping from his face, you need not expect better treatment. Even the preachers of the great awakening had to contend with rocks, rotten fruit and hostile crowds. You’ll survive – or you won’t – but don’t waste your suffering by griping all over Facebook that no one respects your opinion.
4. The answer you should offer when someone asks why you publicly oppose another person’s lifestyle.
This final thought is different from the others. In some ways it doesn’t fit, but I didn’t have time to construct another article for it (I have sermons to prepare and people to visit). So take it for what its worth.
I continually hear the question – ‘Who are you to legislate what a person can do with their own body.’ (Or something to that effect.) I’ve been thinking for a while about this question. I have an answer. It’s not an answer that will satisfy the culture, the world, or the liberal church friend that wants to celebrate what scripture won’t. But I offer it for your peace of mind – an answer that should satisfy you that you are right to stand firm against what scripture stands firm against.
The answer: You don’t belong to you (Psalm 2:1-6; 24:1-2; Isaiah 40:15-17; Daniel 4:35). No human being can look at anything in their possession, including themselves and say MINE. That is the council of scripture. We are, every one of us, stewards of what God has given.
God has granted me life (Psalm 139:13). He has granted me certain privileges in life (Proverbs 22:2). He has granted me both afflictions and joys (Job 1:21). He has given me an authoritative Word to tell how I should steward what he has granted (2 Timothy 3:16). And I ignore his counsel at my peril (Romans 14:10-12).
I am not opposing homosexuality because I have no regard for another persons happiness in this life. I am opposing homosexuality because I have great hope for their happiness in eternity – and God has declared that no one who practices homosexuality will enter the Kingdom of God; but that those who formerly practiced such things can yet be justified in the name of the Lord Jesus (I Corinthians 6:9-11).
Don’t expect them to set down the rocks and rotten eggs when you explain yourself in this way. But remember you are not trying to convert the culture – you are calling out to individuals – and some will hear and be converted.
So I conclude with a simple call to Bible believing pastors. Be steady, be faithful, preach the gospel – earnestly, robustly, lovingly, winsomely, passionately. Present the means of salvation to the world and pray that the Holy Spirit might use it for God’s greater glory.