A Time of Testing


God called Lot out of Sodom before its destruction because he was the one righteous man in a very wicked city. (Genesis Ch. 19) But Lot and his family's lives were so bound up in that place, psychologically and materially, that extrication did not come without righteous payment, in the form of painful loss and humiliation. Many, if not most, believers today find themselves in the same position, enmeshed in a world gone over the edge.

The sky hasn't fallen, but the Bible says some will know when it's about to, and others won't (or won't want to know).

In Matthew Chapter 12, Jesus said:

39 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.
40 You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
Earthquakes are notoriously unpredictable. In some cases, scientists have discovered — in hindsight — that clues to a quake were always there, and they were just looking in the wrong place. Regarding the last days, however, God's Word tells Christians where to look.

The Apostle Paul warned that, before the return of Christ, there would be a great "falling away," (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, KJV) or apostasy*. Contrast these words with the many contemporary claims of "revival" and the church growth movement. Rather, the true Body of Christ is being called unto the Lord, and this is causing rifts everywhere.

The spiritual struggles are visible at all levels, from the day-to-day lives of Christian men and women — lives assaulted, frustrated, and often compromised by sensuality, worldliness,and doctrinal dissolution — to the fomenting division between cultural, humanist Christians and the much smaller group of Bible-believing ones. Those rising tensions in Christian circles parallel the tensions of the world at large, where a very rich, oblivious, and spiritually bereft West finds itself in a desperate entanglement with a galvanized and motivated East.

We find ourselves in troubled times. Jesus said that, "in a time of testing," those of nominal faith will fall away (Luke 8:13) — the separating of the wheat and the tares.

In his current series on the principal figures in the Book of Judges, Pastor David Legge of the Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, presents Samson as emblematic of the modern lukewarm Christian. (You can read or listen to the sermon here.) This type of Christian — or stage in a believer's life — is characterized by a focus on God through the corrupting and narcissistic prism of the self, "through a glass darkly." (1 Corinthians 13:12)

God disciplines the men and women who truly belong to Him (see Proverbs 3:11-12). Pastor Legge says, "When God...isn't permitted to rule in our lives, He overrules and He works His will out regardless of our decisions." The formidably blessed Samson pursued the path of self-interest and worldliness so far, it took imprisonment and the loss of his eyes to set him back on the right path. Lot and Samson are examples of God's own who suffer the consequences of getting too close to this world.

Likewise, for some Christians today, authentic separation results in very dramatic, life-or-death situations, such as the persecution of believers in places like Afghanistan and China. (The recent case of Abdul Rahman is a well-publicized example.). In the West, where issues of morality and doctrine and lifestyle trigger division, the choices are deceptively subtler. Western Christians, without the threat of persecution or death hanging over them, are deceived into thinking the world is not so bad after all.

Whatever circumstances believers find themselves in, separation from this world is a continuous learning process not without some sacrifice, pain, or loss. A time of testing finds real believers turning to and seeking solace in the blessed hope of our Lord's imminent return. Conversely, it also finds the the nominal church seeking hope through a vain embrace of the world.

*One major prophetic forerunner being the establishment of the Catholic Church. Many centuries later, today's apostasy (ecumenical, one world religion) is similarly disguised in sheep's clothing.

Christian, Interrupted


Kristen said... on 4/04/2006 6:50 AM  

Awesome post; I agree wholeheartedly.

You wrote, "The Apostle Paul warned that, before the return of Christ, there would be a great "falling away," (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, KJV) or apostasy*. Contrast these words with the many contemporary claims of "revival" and the church growth movement."

I don't see many bloggers who understand this or are willing to talk about it; it's refreshing to see someone willing to address the Great Falling Away/apostasy rather than advocating dominionism.

Anonymous said... on 4/04/2006 1:41 PM  

Thank you for your kind remarks, Kristen. An in-depth article on the subject of dominionism can be found at the Kjos Ministries site. Its author makes a very important point about "soft-sell dominionism" — this type has notably injected itself into media/pop culture and is thus more palatable than the political variety.

The theology section at WithChrist.org explores related theological roots.

Anonymous said... on 7/31/2009 12:11 AM  

1 Thess. 3:12. Not smart enough to add anything else :)