I am pondering whether America has crossed the line of disobedience to God’s invitation. We see in this day, a rapid increase of people who say that they are a part of God’s redemptive community, but are living incomplete to their verbal confession, and producing succeeding generations who show no signs of having been nurtured in God’s purposes for His human creation. If this is true then the full impacts of a people unrestrained in sin, and under the wrath of God will increase. And, such does indeed appear to be the growing reality in the American culture. Any and every disobedience of which mankind is capable is already abundantly evident and increasing.
But, as one still committed to seeing the redemptive community carry out its creative design, what am I to suggest. The context does not change the role of the redemptive community found today in and through the Church, it only intensifies its importance and demands concerted effort. The importance of the effort is abundantly clear from Scripture. As the redemptive community four very important effects remain, in-spite of growing lawlessness in the culture.
One, there are still individuals in the people or place that God will woo to Himself through the life and witness of the people of the redemptive community. Their numbers will decrease, but they will still be found. Second, the restraining impact of the salt and light nature of the people of God will keep the culture from falling into total and complete lawlessness, or at least slow its demise. Third, God will continue to build His eternal testimony against that people and place for their disregard of the witness of Himself, and His offering of reconciliation that He has given in His Son, and through His people. Fourth, the true redemptive community is God’s sign for any and all to see so that they will not be carried into nominalizing Christian bodies masquerading as true people of Christ.
This moment in time demands a greater effort of those who truly are in the redemptive community. One, the effectual nurturing of their own extended biological family demands a greater effort in such surroundings. It is of greater importance if they are to see their personal next generations nurtured in the creative purposes of God for His creation. It will take more time and effort than a more cooperative culture would have afforded. It will take more purposeful protection of them against the seducing culture around them, and yet, doing so without cutting them off from their full participation in the redemptive ministry of the people of Christ in the world. It will take purposeful rejection of the values in the world around us, and our participation in them.
For example, we need to reject notions in the hoarding mentality that surrounds us. We need to give away more of all that we possess. In order to do so, we need to reject the bigger house, the better car, the better paying job, the better vacation. We may need to clear our houses and lives of the ready made access to any and every thought, commodity, novelty that invades it and us through the proliferating media means. There are ways to stay abreast of the most important facts that take place in our history without succumbing to the seducing DNA attached to so much of what we touch in what appears to be “neutral” technology.
Two, the constant vigilance of our own hearts demands a greater effort. Correct understandings of why God has revealed Himself and the ways that He has given to us to relate to Him, are imperative. If it ever was a luxury that in past generations Christ’s people could count on the Christian culture around them to carry them in relationship to God, that day is long gone. We will need to dedicate ourselves more fully to learning to listen to God through His word for ourselves, and not just allowing teachers and worship experiences to carry our intimacy with God.
In the midst of the busy life in which most live, we will be called on more than ever to learn the disciplines that nurture our priesthood as believers. When so many among us find themselves with few hours each month among other Christians, and, when so many among us are continuously surrounded by people with no God consciousness, and, when so many among us live in unchecked connection to the culture around us, then, the importance of each learning to practice the disciplines of relationship with God on their own is not just luxury, it is survival!
We need to learn to: 1. Read Scripture more often, 2. Listen to God in what we read by greater meditation and reflection on what is said, and what it means for each new day. 3. Chose local churches that teach us how to live in communion with God, and not just participate in their program or listen to their leaders talk and sing about relationship to God. We can no longer afford to allow others to substitute anything for what we, every one of us, must learn to practice. 4. Invite God to invade our consciousness more often throughout the day. 5. Seek occasional but regular retreats when we can once again allow the Spirit of God to reset our spiritual compass.
Robert Foster says of this listening to God: “What does lectio divina mean? Well, it means listening to the text of Scripture— really listening; listening yielded and still. It means submitting to the text of Scripture; allowing its message to flow into us rather than our attempting to master it. It means reflecting on the text of Scripture; permitting ourselves to become fully engaged—both mind and heart —by the drama of the passage. It means praying the text of Scripture; letting the biblical reality of this with-God life give rise to our heart cry of gratitude or confession or complaint or petition. It means applying the text of Scripture; seeing how God’s Holy Word provides a personal word for our life circumstances. And, it means obeying the text of Scripture; turning, always turning, from our wicked way and into the way everlasting (Ps 139:23-24).”
Pg 8 from introduction to Renovare Bible
In reference to the importance of people learning to listen to God, Andrew Murray in The Lord’s Table, says: “I am convinced that one chief cause why some do not grow more in grace is that they do not take time to hold converse with the Lord in secret. Spiritual, divine truth does not thus become our possession at once. Although I understand what I read, although I consent heartily to it, although I receive it, it may speedily fade away and be forgotten, unless by private meditation I give it time to become fixed and rooted in me, to become united and identified with me. Christians, give yourselves, give your Lord time to transfer His heavenly thoughts to your inner, spiritual life. When you have read a portion, set yourselves in silence before God.”
Three, meaningful investment in the Kingdom of God is of greatest importance. It is more important for two reasons. Our society has convinced us of the “things” that make life meaningful and many among us have bought the argument. We have been seduced into at least three lies.
1) that whatever it is that our culture is selling will make us happy. The bigger house, the better school for our children, the job in the marketplace for mothers, and so much more must be sought and possessed if we are truly to be happy. And, yet, if these things make so many people happy, why are we surrounded by so many broken marriages, emotionally wounded, etc..
2) whatever it is that will make us happier, we deserve. It is amazing how such a relatively small number of people in the West have come to a point in history that everything that they can think, everything that they can possess, they deserve. It is a seductive argument for example that you work, or you vote, or you have saved, therefore you deserve it, whatever it is. It makes us a demanding, self-serving people.
3) whatever it is that we sought after, possess, deserve, etc. is built to last. This nonsense exists in spite of the evident proof all around us that nothing is built to last. The cars begin to deteriorate from day one. The house needs constant repair. Everything we touch is disappearing.
All three lies are in desperate need of being exposed for the lies that they are. We will need to be much more vigilant to guard ourselves from being seduced, unawares, into the lies! Even more importantly, we will need to be diligent in training and protecting our children from being seduced by the glut of media instruments marketing the lies non-stop. And yet, we will need to do this without defrauding the world of the incarnational impact of the redemptive community constantly moving in their midst.
Maybe the greatest sadness of these lies and any sway that they hold over the people of God is that pursuit of these things deprives the Kingdom of God of the wholehearted investment needed to fulfill the purposes of God for this world.
And so, fourth, meaningful investment in the needs of the Kingdom of God is of greater importance because we are slowly deprived of growing a conviction of eternity and its more important investments. Will I be happy? Will I be fulfilled? Will I be used? The center of our questioning has become “I”. Go just about anywhere in Scripture and you find words similar to the writer of Hebrews as he describes those of faith of past generations. He says of their faith and faith acts, that by these they were demonstrating that the home they were looking for they had not found. For if they had wanted a home in this world, they could have returned. But, they kept seeking that place promised to them, and us by God our Father.
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:13-16
I suspect that the full impact of the Gospel comes only once to a people or place. Whether we in America are sliding into this reality, we are suspiciously close. In this day, those who truly are in the redemptive community need to:
Reflect on their heart and life.
Take corrective action.
Build disciplines of relationship to God through His Word.
Protect the unprotected in their midst.
Teach them to listen to God and discern Him and His ways for themselves.
Aggressively restructure their expectations and investments in light of eternity, not time.