Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers.
Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door. – Matthew 24
I’ve always been interested in modern Christendom’s approach to changing the world. It doesn’t seem to line up with what to me at least, seems the obvious ‘New Testament‘ way. Further, we seem unable to grapple with the rapid decline of church influence on our society, such that the outside world won’t listen to us or take us seriously anymore. “They” are even curtailing where we can speak and what we can believe. The indignity of it all. Our approach has been an Old Testament one of cudgels and cutlasses.
Neil Cole, one of the pre-eminent Disciple makers around today, said recently that a great part of what he does, involves warning churches about what is surely coming. The question is, will we listen? There it is, in black and white, if they hated me, they will hate you. Can it be any clearer?
Is it any surprise then, when a State government attempts to ban the name of Jesus across every playground in every primary school in the State (what about Allah, Mohammed or Buddha?). Should it surprise us when everything in our society tilts against Christendom, when Christmas is slowly dismantled, when proselytising is banned, when the Bible is removed. Why do we respond with shock? Perhaps a better question is, how should we respond?
I have become indifferent to the endless requests to join marches, gatherings, sign petitions and goodness knows what else, to change politician’s minds about the future of the country. Has it done the cause of Christ any good at all for us to wave placards and raise our voices in the face of those whom we expect to live up to our beliefs (I nearly said standard) while in the same breath, tell them of the love of Christ. What good does it do when we tear down and isolate ourselves from the very ones we should be winning to Christ?
Jesus asks us simply to read the signs, and the signs tell us he is on the way, maybe even quite soon. Have we forgotten his message to us, his believers? Let us recap and listen.
That salvation is found in nothing in this world, but only in him, that we are to put our entire faith in him bringing us through trial, judgement and on into eternity with him. Because of this, because he loved us first, so we are to live an obedient life to him, preferably one that radiates out into the world the pure beauty of his presence. Then, when we live a life that will not bring disgrace to his name, to go out into the world wherever he calls us, and tell others the same, even if ‘out into the world’ means across the street to your neighbour. If we just did that at presumably great cost, you wonder if our world would be very different.
Some while back, the leaders of the China church began the ‘Back to Jerusalem’ project, taking up a vision they felt the Lord gave them to evangelise the entire Silk Route, all the way back to Jerusalem. Every since Paul’s day, the Gospel has moved West and they wondered whether this might usher in the return of the Lord. Millions have signed up, at great cost. Evangelising the ‘Stans’ and Arabia might be one of the most challenging activities ever undertaken by a believer. Of the first 40 groups to go out, 37 were arrested inside a month – but don’t worry, millions more, literally, are queuing to take their place.
All of this tells me that Christ is indeed on the way, that the purposes of God never cease and nothing will hinder them. They will be fulfilled in the fullness of time and no government pettiness will stop it for a moment. Isn’t that great!
The only question is then, what will I do with my brief time? Will I accept that all this is going to come to pass, that as a believer my message will be unpopular, but needs to be heard anyway as it will be heeded by some. Further, will I live in the faith and knowledge that God has given me a simple task to do right where I am.
If I do that, then I can leave the running of the world, the fate of politicians and governments in the hands of one to whom ‘all authority has been given’ and focus on my much simpler task.
One it would seem Jesus was confident would change the world.