One saviour , one focus
In increasingly hostile times, Christians need clear answers to two questions. David Andrew considers the‘why’ and ‘how’ of our existence…
Focus is essential warfare strategy. If the enemy can convince you to look in the wrong direction or to believe that something fake is real (or viceversa) then you lose the advantage, whether for defence or attack. Hundreds of full-scale dummy airfields were deployed in World War Two to encourage the Luftwaffe to waste their bombs or to send back false reports of our strength. Focus can be the distance between defeat and victory…
But this sort of military metaphor is frowned on in many Christian circles today; it’s just not ‘nice’. ‘Surely,’ the argument goes, ‘we are supposed to love our enemies?’ The answer, of course is ‘yes’, but don’t let’s miss the point: we can’t obey Jesus’ command unless we have enemies – and enemies usually signal some degree of conflict – and that’s not ‘nice’ either…
If many UK Christians are still unaware that they are in a war zone, there’s a wakeup call coming soon – and focus will be critical…
An elderly friend once joked how he was learning to face the deeper questions in life: “Five minutes ago, I rose from my chair, walked along the hall and into our bedroom and suddenly found myself thinking ‘now, WHY AM I HERE?’”! We can laugh, but as hostility to the Gospel and our God accelerates we need the answer to that question. Why are we here? Another question, equally serious, is ‘How are we here?’ We consider these questions below…
Jesus was clear about His reasons:“I came not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me”(John 6:38). He had no agenda of His own:“the Son does nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing”(John 5:19). The apostles were clear why He came: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” (1 Timothy 1:15)“…we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world”(1 John 4:14). “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work”(1 John 3:8), who “has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God”(2 Corinthians 4:4) i.e. not unbelieving because they are blind, but blind because they are unbelieving. This empowers the evil one to bring darkness between their minds and the glory of Jesus.
The apostles who were“eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16) entitled Him “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), the“radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being”(Hebrews 1:3). When Jesus becomes visible, people can see God. Paul described this as“the life of Jesus … plainly seen in our mortal lives” (2 Corinthians 4:11 – Phillips).
‘Head’, not headlines
If Jesus is the Head of which the Church is His Body on earth, it follows that the Body, like the Head, should get its agenda from heaven, not from earth’s headlines. We are on a mission from God. We have been commissioned by the Lord of the Church and have no business permitting the world’s transient whims to set our agenda. This becomes clearer still if we consider that every disciple of Jesus Christ is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth. As it was the primary concern of the Son to reveal the glory of the Father, so the Spirit’s priority is to bear witness to Jesus in and through the believer. If we have a different priority, we are not in step with the Spirit and are bound to preach a ‘different gospel’ – one in which Jesus is side-lined or entirely absent from view.
It is urgent in these fast-darkening times that the Church should rediscover “the glorious gospel of our blessed God” – and why it is ‘glorious’.
While entire ‘Christian’ denominations are swept along by the world’s anti-God agenda, and global diplomacy tries to prevent the proliferation (or use) of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), mankind fails to identify the deadliest WMD of all: SIN. It separates men and women from God, isolates them from each other, stores up divine wrath against them for when God’s judgment finally falls on ungodliness and – if unrepented and unforgiven – guarantees their eternal punishment in Hell and irretrievable exclusion from God’s presence. Sin is the “sting of death” (1 Corinthians 15:56). If sin doesn’t qualify as a weapon of mass destruction, what does? Oswald Chambers said that“sin has made the basis of everything wild and not rational”– what could be more irrational than hating the good news of God’s mercy and befriending sin that enslaves men and women to the Destroyer – the Bible’s name for Satan?
The Gospel is a weapon of mass construction. For those who believe its message, it’s Jesus visible, God enjoyable, Grace immeasurable, Mercy unfathomable, Love indestructible, Hope unconquerable, Kingdom unstoppable… Trials become joy, enemies are loved, forgiveness becomes a way of life – such ‘offensive’ Good News! Addictions are cured, prayers are heard, wisdom is generously given, the weak are empowered and imagined strength is exposed as weakness. Religion shows empty, ritual meaningless. Relationship… is… everything:“ Our fellowship is with the Father and His Son”(1 John 1:3). We obey, not to impress God,but because we are impressed with God – His extravagant love, His justice fully satisfied in the One sacrifice of His Sinless Son, His freedom to justify the ungodly and still be just– because Jesus “bore all our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). Reconciled to God through His Son, believers are“living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple.” (1 Peter 2:5)
Our Gospel proclaims a Saviour who “tasted death for everyone”(Hebrews 2:9) and defeated it. He is God the Son who takes“no pleasure in the death of the wicked”(Ezekiel 18:23) and who came “that they may have life and have it abundantly”(John 10:10) – for what part of this should we apologise?
Very soon, we Christians are going to get lots of practice in loving the enemy, so it’s time to answer the question ‘WHY are we here?’ ‘Love your enemies’ is not some warm, fuzzy, homespun philosophy to make us feel virtuous – indeed it has nothing whatever to do with our feelings. Jesus’ command is addressed to our minds, not our emotions. It is a matter of obedience, not sentiment. To Jesus, the enemy was no vague hostility ‘out there’ in the world. His enemy always had a face. No, don’t think scribes and Pharisees and Roman soldiers… go look in the mirror:“…while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son”(Romans 5:10). It came as a shock to me that God’s love and mercy had reached me when I was Hisenemy. Jesus came to defeat sin and death on our behalf so that the likeness of God, lost in the Fall, could be restored to us. “Love your enemies” is the very heart of the Gospel because – perhaps more than any of Jesus’ teachings – it expresses the heart and intention of God towards our race since the Fall:“…love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful”(Luke 6:35-36). There’s the likeness restored! There’s His binary, non-trans, non-gender confused, nonpolitically correct unchanging plan for mankind – male and female! Today’s transient ‘truth’ is self-evidently nontruth, but “the word of the Lord stands forever”. Don’t take my word for it – wait and see!
This leads naturally to our second question: “HOW are we here?” Only those of us who have spent the past year or so on another planet will be unaware of how organised and determined is the growing hostility to evangelical Christianity and the authority of the Bible. An executive agency of the UK Foreign Office recently produced an 11page report from an international forum which discussed the relationship between faith and the “human rights of LGBTI+ persons”. Christianity, Judaism and Islam are seen as the primary obstructions to gay rights. The report calls for research funding to ‘reinterpret’ scripture to make it compatible with LGBTI ideology and teaching in Sunday Schools and seminaries. The report is especially prejudicial to evangelicals.
It is clear from this document that our own UK government’s devotion to the LGBTI agenda labels us as ‘the enemy’ – but the Gospel gives us no permission to return the enmity.“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them… Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honourable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:14-21).
So how are we here? Jesus knew we would need the answer to this so He said:“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves”(Matthew 10:16). Veteran missionary to China, Arthur Matthews, writing about supposedly ‘closed doors’ for mission in dangerous countries, said: “It is time we sought God's definition of a closed door and forget some of our own. When we hear the wolves howling, we think we have to rush for cover, lest we get hurt. Jesus saw things the other way. He said to his disciples, ‘I send you as sheep into the midst of wolves.’ We are not justified in arguing that a door is closed just because danger is threatening. Paul's reasoning endorses the Savior's remarks. He says, "Buy up the opportunity,because the days are evil." 1 [Emphasis added] Recalling ‘why’ we are here makes sense of ‘how’ we are here.
Our enmity was no distraction to the outreach of God’s grace to us who are now His children. In today’s hostile climate it should be ‘business as usual’ as we seek to wield God’s mighty weapon of hope in the midst of devil-blinded despair. Refusing distractions, controlling our fears, we must love our lost world… with sight of Jesus!
1 Matthews, R. Arthur, Born for Battle 1978, OMF