Relevant Magazine is an online resource that I enjoy reading. The target audience is much younger than I am and I really enjoy hearing their perspectives on the issues of the day. I often am convicted by what I read and realize that the younger generation has a very different attitude and perspective on this world than I often do. There are some brilliant minds in God’s Kingdom that have not yet seen their 30th birthday!
The title to a recent article, The Greatest False Idol of Modern Christianity, piqued my interest. The article’s premise is that fear has become a modern idol. But, wisdom often comes with age and truth isn’t always found in the way things appear to be. Fear has become a large part of the modern message, but maybe not the idol the author believes it to be.
The author, John Pavlovitz, is described as a pastor/blogger from Wake Forest, North Carolina. He wrote, “The world outside the church building is broadly painted as a vile, immoral war zone, with “God’s people” hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned.” His point, as I understand it, is that too many sermons, conversations and other forms of media have caused God’s people to focus on the fearful things outside the walls of the church. That focus has often caused Christians to feel defeated and believe their chances of impacting the world are too small. I saw a lot of wisdom in this perspective. It is more difficult to fight a battle that you have no hope of winning.
Pavlovitz’s answer to that dilemma is found in this quote: “Though we will loudly, repeatedly and confidently proclaim Christ as Lord, in reality, many of us no longer practice faith in a God that has any real power, any true control or inherent God-ness. We seem to have little more than a neutered figurehead Deity, who doesn’t seem to be able to handle much at all anymore. He’s lost His Old Testament swagger.” Christians do forget that God can do anything and his plan will always be sovereign. God is all-powerful, all-knowing and ever-present in the world he has made.
The next quote was highlighted as a bullet point of the article. It said, “When your God isn’t big enough, you’ll try to do in others what you’ve decided He wants, instead of actually trusting Him to ‘finish the good work He began.'” The comment was at first convicting. Am I trusting God enough? Has fear prompted me to say, teach or write things that I should have entrusted to God instead? I finished reading the article and realized that the statement above probably “sounded” more right, than truly was right.
I am absolutely certain that there are sermons preached and articles written that are intended to raise people’s fears and cause them to seek the church for safety. I am absolutely certain that fear is a tool in Satan’s hand that causes Christians to retreat from the world and keep “the salt in the salt shaker.” I don’t doubt that feelings of defeat cause Christians to stop “fighting the good fight.” And I am sure that most of us need to continually refresh our view of God and his greatness.
But I think there is more to the story than simply “trusting God to finish the work he began.” One of the last things Jesus told his followers was to “Go and make disciples of all nations.” The early church suffered a great deal because they obeyed that command and preached to a hostile world. The message they preached was one of love, grace and eternal life through Christ. The message was also about the truth of God’s righteous judgment on those who did not receive his gift of salvation.
We live in interesting days. Should our message be about the greatness of God and his ability to save the world? Yes. Should our message be about the sin of the world and God’s anger towards that sin? Yes. I don’t think the problem that exists today is because of one side or the other. I think the problem that exists today is that Christians believe they are supposed to choose one side or the other. The full message of Scripture contains both.
I am glad I read the article because I was reminded that we are called to teach and speak the full message of the gospel. We don’t need to fear the world, or hide ourselves away, because God is in control. We do need to teach the world and help people understand their need for God, and the need to obey the Bible. God is perfectly in control of every moment of history, but he has instructed his children to be filled with his Holy Spirit so that we could be his voice to those around us. We aren’t supposed to hide in the church, fearful of the world. Neither are we supposed to limit God’s message of salvation because we don’t think it is our job to spread fear.
I like King Solomon’s message on the subject of fear. We are to live in reverent awe of our Creator and obey his word. His message works as well today as it did when he wrote it.
It was a perfect message of wisdom then, and it remains just as perfect today. Preach well!