If you were to sum up the need of our times in one word, that
word would be “repentance.”
While often thought to be merely an outdated preoccupation of
backwoods preachers, the theme of repentance runs throughout
the Bible and remains necessary for all who desire life over death.
This is because repentance is the stepping stone that enables
one to cross from the path that leads to ruin to that which is life
in the Lord.
Being so, repentance is an extremely relevant theme for us today,
as we live in a nation that has lost its way.
The word repentance literally means a change of mind. Consequently,
repentance begins by recognizing you are on the wrong path, and if
you continue it will lead to trouble, and eventually doom.
But repentance involves more than just recognition of your condition –
it requires confession and change. Without these elements, you
have merely thought about repentance – you have not actually
repented. For repentance to be genuine, it must show itself in
the way one lives. There has to be fruit in keeping with repentance.
Repentance is indispensable when it comes to turning the tide from
misery to hope. It’s through repentance God’s pardoning grace is
brought to bear on us where we need it. When we repent and believe,
God forgives us and moves from being under judgment to under
Repentance has the power to change the status of an individual –
or even a nation – in an instant. When the people of Nineveh
repented at Jonah’s preaching, the whole nation was spared the
judgment God had prepared for it overnight.
Though repentance is a simple concept, it is not easy to implement.
From Brian Abshire’s The Royal Race of the Redeemed.
Our social disintegration that rightly deserves a Christian response is not a result of the massive influx of black, brown or yellow people leaving their traditional homelands – but because the gospel of Jesus Christ has not yet sufficiently changed people’s lives – neither theirs, nor “ours.” The cultures these people come from either have not received the gospel, or worked out its implications consistently in family, work, recreation, charity, etc. However, the United States would not have decayed into a socialist monstrosity unless Christians had lost sight of a full-orbed gospel. The solution then is not playing the “race card” – but rather in rediscovering a truly consistent Christian faith, and aggressive evangelism, verified by one’s own transformed life.
As I write, a number of states are holding primary elections as a precursor to the general election in the fall. The big question is, will any of these elections bring the significant change needed to reverse our nation’s decline?
It’s not likely.
It’s not that I’m cynical. Nor do I think there are no differences between candidates. But as a society we have conferred upon the State the power to save us, and this the State cannot do. We have put our faith in politics, but the politicians are unable to deliver.
At least part of the population is beginning to recognize this. That’s good news, and gives us some hope that there are those who are up for radical change. The bad news is that the masses still like the idea of the State as a provider, and want to continue to get from the State whatever they can.
This cannot go on. We need a radical turn around – and soon — because here’s the root of the matter.
Over the past years we’ve seen God increasingly marginalized from American life. Everyone knows it, and the pace of denying God’s place just seems to be accelerating.
But there’s something else that’s been going on at the same time. While God has been increasingly marginalized, the State has been increasingly idolized. That is, we’ve come to the place where we look to the State as an idol, to assure us that we will be secure and satisfied — no matter what sane principles we may violate.
How you view the future has a lot to do with how you live in the present. So, thinking through what the the future holds can have a real effect on your life today.
The dominant view of the future for a long time has been that of evolutionary progress. This is the idea that over time conditions will naturally get better, and what is necessary to move things along is to provide education, economic benefits and freedom to as many people as possible.
This thinking is common among politicians. As a result, we are continually exposed to one new program for progress after another. But it’s all to no avail, because these programs do not take seriously the fact that humanity has been corrupted by evil, and that this evil needs to be addressed.
To confirm that this is indeed the case, all you need to do is note how all the efforts to provide greater educational opportunities, further economic redistribution, and spread democracy have done nothing to halt the extent to which human beings exploit one another.
This reality has led to a widespread acceptance of another view of the future. This view is that what really counts is not life in this material world, but the spiritual world that is beyond us. With this view is the idea that the world is a wicked place, and our greatest hope is in escaping the confines of it at death.
Those who hold to this way of thinking will show forth the consequences of it in different ways. Some will live as though what happens in this world really doesn’t matter, making a god of personal pleasure. Others will just hang on in this world, enduring the best they can, hoping that life on the other side will be better for them.
In either case, the escapist falls far short when it comes to engaging life in the here and now, and fails to bring the good that can be brought to others in this world.
Fortunately, there’s another way of looking at things.
With last week’s ruling by a California judge, the movement toward gay marriage has picked up steam. This resurgence is not surprising. Rather, it’s a fairly logical result of ideas that continue to dominate American culture.
Let’s consider the significance of a few of these ideas.
First, there’s the idea of American individualism. It’s been a long-held, cherished belief in our nation that nothing should stand in the way of an individual seeking to fulfill his or her desires. Taken by itself, the spirit of individualism makes gay marriage appear as a natural right for those who desire it.
But there are other interests at stake — like the interest of society as a whole. For millennia, marriage between a man and a woman has served as the primary civilizing influence of society. At the heart of this is that marriage is a bond for the raising of children and passing on values to the next generation.
To accept individualism’s push toward gay marriage is to gut the family of it’s stabilizing role to the detriment of society as a whole.
Another idea that continues to propel the gay marriage movement forward is our exalted view of the State. By marginalizing God from American life, we have given the State the power to define the most fundamental matters of life. But it is not the State’s place to determine issues like when life begins or what constitutes a marriage. The State’s place is to recognize these basic definitions and uphold them.
One of the characteristics of our time is the weakening of bonds that exist among people.
This weakening of bonds can be seen at many levels. It can be seen in the breakdown of marriage and the family. It can be seen in the lack of loyalty in the workplace and the church. And it’s becoming more evident in the lost sense of belonging that people feel with regard to their own nation.
In short, everyone tends to be more isolated than ever.
This situation is serious because as bonds are weakened, society as a whole becomes vulnerable. Institutions cannot endure when the bonds among people are disintegrating. Bonds, then, need to be restored to maintain relationships and keep groups of people together.
The Spirit of God is the source of strong bonds. When the Spirit is free to work among men, He creates growing bonds among larger groups of people. It is this very phenomenon that built up Western Civilization and the United States of America.
But when the Spirit is resisted, bonds break down. And this is what we have been experiencing as of late. Our rejection of the Lord’s presence in our affairs has had the direct effect of weakening the bonds in all kinds of relationships.
This reality brings out into the open an important point. God’s Spirit cannot be resisted without consequence. We’d like to think we can forget about Him and live without adverse effects, but this is impossible in the world that God has made. The weakening of bonds are a powerful example of this.