The lives of many people demonstrate little respect or appreciation for “the church.” Most of those who fall into this group are not atheists. Some claim affiliation with a church, but in reality it’s only token affiliation. For many, though they believe in God, seldom do they even think about the church. It’s not that they feel any hostility toward the church, the church simply holds no place in their mind. A prime reason for a lack of respect and appreciation for the church is a lack of understanding of what is the church.
This world is an uncertain place, and life herein is equally uncertain. History is filled with examples of such uncertainty. Many people would take security in the supposed sovereignty of their country. But the geographic landscape of this world is always in a state of continual flux. In its day the Assyrian empire was mighty, but it no longer exists. Egypt was once a powerful, conquering nation but ceased to be so many hundreds of years ago. The Babylonian empire was sweeping in its conquests, but its reign of power was comparatively brief. The Persian empire was even more impressive in its might, but its empire status ceased long ago. The Greek empire under Alexander was like no other before it. Long since gone. The Roman empire far surpassed all of those previous to it, including that of the Greeks. It crumbled well over one thousand years ago.
The greatest gift ever given is salvation through Jesus Christ. Paul wrote of this gift in his letter to the Romans. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). In his letter to the Ephesians Paul stated, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,” (Eph. 2:8). The Hebrews letter calls it “the heavenly gift” (Heb. 6:4).
Imagine starting off your day tomorrow however you normally do. Perhaps you have breakfast, get into your car and head off to work. You turn on the radio, ready to listen to the early morning news broadcast. While listening, the broadcaster announces that Jesus will be in town today at such and such location, at such and such time. You’d be stunned. Jesus, coming right here to the city where you live. What an opportunity to see Him, to hear Him speak! But, would you go to see Jesus?
The prophet wrote, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (Isa. 5:20). These are actually God’s words. He is talking specifically about the nation of Israel. Earlier in the chapter He refers to them as a vineyard that He planted and cultivated, only to have it produce “wild grapes” instead of “good grapes” (vs. 1-7). The allusion is clear. God raised up Israel to be His own people, the people through whom the Savior would come into the world. He gave them His law, taught them, guided them, fought their battles for them, blessed them richly, made them a great nation. Instead of Israel remaining the righteous, faithful people of God, they turned away from God and worshipped idols. They rejected His law and made up their own, followed their own will instead of submitting to His. Ultimately, God allowed their enemies to conquer them and take them into captivity. As a result of their sin they suffered disgrace as a nation.
Often, we feel either inadequate or without sufficient resources to be able to do something that needs to be done. These lines of reasoning are constantly used by individuals and congregations in relation to serving God. In some cases we say we don’t have time to serve God as we would like. Sometimes we state that we just don’t have the ability to do some good work that needs to be done. In other cases we claim to not have sufficient resources to get the job done. While these statements can hold some validity, we must be on guard to not carelessly use them as excuses to simply let ourselves off the hook. If we open our eyes, both our physical eyes and our eyes of faith, we will often find that we have more time and ability and resources than we first imagined.
This series of articles has been extensive. Its theme has centered on the belief that our culture in this nation has been turned Upside Down… The various articles in this series (nineteen of them to this point) have pointed to numerous examples that illustrate this belief to be fact. This article concludes this series with some final thoughts.
In his first letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul sharply rebuked the congregation for tolerating, within the congregation, a degree of sexual immorality so depraved that even the Gentiles would not so much as talk about such a thing. A man had become involved in an affair with his father’s wife, apparently his step-mother (1 Cor. 5:1). The Gentiles were unbelievers and idol worshipers. Immorality seemed to naturally go hand-in-hand with idolatry, yet this was a form of immorality that even they found repulsive. Sadly, what the Gentiles of Paul’s day would not even talk about might well be accepted in our nation today with its present cultural mind-set. We are living in a culture of immorality!
Many people are reluctant to be baptized into Christ because they are uncertain as to exactly what living a Christian life will be like. They’re not sure what all Christianity is about, and they’re not sure they can live the lifestyle of a Christian. A brief overview of Christianity can be seen under the heading “The Grace, The Groan, And The Glory.”
Many parents have advised, in some cases instructed, their children to not associate with certain kids at school or in the neighborhood. Their counsel had nothing to do with prejudice. Rather, from their perspective of experience and wisdom that comes with having lived life longer than their children, they saw serious warning signals in the lives and/or behavior of those other kids. Out of love for their children and trying to live up to their responsibility as parents, they took this step to protect their children from potentially dangerous associations. Associations matter!
Gary L. Hutchens