“…and the gates of Hell will not overpower it.” Matthew 16:18
During the infancy of our country Thomas Paine wrote, These are the times that try men’s souls. Fast-forward nearly 250 years and the truth that this statement contains has not waned much. These are desperate times to be sure. Very new social construct is aimed at the heinous trifecta of the enemy to steal, kill, and destroy. I pause before I move on to give two fundamental acknowledgments: First, I am utterly convinced in the sovereignty of God. He has a firm grasp of the full outworking of human history; nothing is out of His reach or out of bounds to His over-arching will. Second, I am not suggesting that those of us who live in the 21st century have it worse or more desperate that Christ-followers who have lived before us. The Bible is very clear that the closer we live in union with Christ the more at odds we are with the unbelieving world!
Now to the point: my admission is that we live in desperate times. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is under attack, and those who align their lives with that Gospel are finding this world an increasingly ill-fitting garment. Having said that, I further admit that desperate times demand a church that is willing to live into that desperation with a renewed sense of the sacred obligation necessary to communicate the aforementioned Gospel, in word and in deed.
There are certain attributes or characteristics of what that church should be like. I offer but a few:
First, an ever-increasing surrender of our lives to Christ. Surrender is that act whereby I purpose to place myself under the authority of God in totality, holding nothing back. It is giving the Holy Spirit the keys to every door, closet, lock box—everything. Bonhoeffer contemplated this, and even more as the Third Reich grew to monstrous proportions. He said—He (Bonhoeffer) was thinking about the deep call of Christ, which was not about winning, but about submission to God, WHEREVER (my emphasis) that may lead (Metaxas, p 196). If submission is not primary, then what follows is folly.
Second, a God-sized courage. Numerous times throughout the Bible when the people of God were preparing to take on a corrupt and devilish world, the anthem heard was—be strong and courageous! True courage is not manufactured by will alone; it is bathed, saturated, marinated in submission to God (the first point). Remember our inherent weakness. Remember even more that Christ’s power is perfected in weakness (2 Cor 12). Paul gloried in his weakness so that the power of Christ’s strength flowed out of him—to be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might!
Third, and perhaps the most difficult of all, a willingness to suffer. I quote Bonhoeffer—Simply suffering—that is what will be needed then—not parries, blows, or thrusts such as may be possible or admissible in the preliminary fight; the real struggle that perhaps lies ahead must be to suffer faithfully…for sometime (the church struggle) hasn’t even been about what it appears to be about, the lines have been drawn somewhere else entirely (Metaxas p. 196). I believe Bonhoeffer knew by Divine insight that the battle for the Gospel in that toxic time meant that believers would suffer and die for the Kingdom of Christ—through many tribulations we will enter the Kingdom of heaven (Acts 14:22). And that he did, in Flossenburg by way of the noose, just within a week of the Allies liberating it from German control.
I have no idea the specifics of the future. But as a student of the Bible, I realize that there will be terrible times in the last days (2 Timothy 3:1-7). The admonition we receive from the Holy Spirit is to ready ourselves now for what will inevitably arrive in days ahead. Don’t procrastinate, don’t fall asleep on the job, don’t just brush if off—steel yourself to live in the moment completely in step with Christ.
Blessings on the Journey, Pastor Dewayne