Currents of popular opinion sweep about us like white-water waves swirling down a narrow ravine of everyday living. They threaten to sweep us off our feet into the wild seas of disillusionment and disappointment even while reach for more dependable things. When we finally find the rock of love and mercy that Jesus is to those who believe in Him, we discover a firm place to plant our feet—the solid rock on which we stand.
But then calamities of one kind or another come and threaten to pry the fingers of faith loose, like subtle, yet pernicious erosions; these unwanted events work at weakening the confidence we once had in the words of hope which God has spoken to us. Sadly, such waves seem appealing at times and we find it all too easy to give in to their pressures and promptings. We not only allow ourselves to be carried along blindly by those streams of wild thoughts and reckless ideas, but we revel in them, at least until we are finally cast upon the jagged rocks of brokenness and ruin. Regrettably, there are even those who sometimes urge us to abandon truth while under a mask of Christian leadership. There are those who advocate from the pulpit of popularity a gospel that is not really a gospel at all, or good news that is not truly good news, but is instead, a dangerous deception.
For example, one recent, popular book bearing a Christian label picks up the thread of spiritual relativism and basically tells us that much of what we read in the Bible is untrue or is, at the very least, greatly misunderstood. It asserts that there are many ways to know God, to be accepted by Him and to be subsequently ushered into eternal bliss. It asserts that there is no hell, or final judgment of any kind, since hell is not commensurate with the author’s ideas of God. These notions are not new ideas in Christianity. They just are newly raised and repackaged so as to give the appearance of being new messages for a new millennium.
One defender of this particular author, a leader in what is sometimes referred to as the Emergent Church, claims that as citizens of a contemporary world, we cannot understand what the Bible really meant so long ago. Considering its spiritual sophistication, as well as the alien nuances of the cultures and languages that existed at the time of its writing, its original intention is all but lost.
Another writer advocating such ticklish teaching wonders what would happen if these things were true about the Bible. It seems to him that these cloudy ambiguities are just as correct—if not more so—than the basic tenets of orthodox Christianity we have been taught since childhood. Unfortunately, tossing around such questions into the mix of faith fails to create the new sense of wonder and awe which was the stated goal. Ultimately it robs us of the assurance that the Bible is truly trustworthy. Questions such as, “What if the Bible isn’t right about hell?” or “What if Jesus is only one way among many to God?” or “What if people can be saved after death?” only obscure the truth.
While such ideas may give us momentary, yet delusional, comfort when considering the plight of a lost loved one, they eventually steal from us that same comfort by compromising the consistency of the Bible’s message. Worse yet, if we believe that the Word of God can’t be taken at face value, its overall message is rendered incoherent. Because the existence of hell has been explained away, heaven is suddenly suspect. Because it is assumed that one does not need to receive Christ in this lifetime, Jesus is put off indefinitely. Because ways to God other than Christ have been introduced, Jesus is demoted from Savior and Lord to merely teacher and friend.
“In the end,” says one writer, “I don’t know. And you don’t know. Which is why we have faith.” But if we simply leave things there, we are in a quagmire of agnosticism, in which we can’t know anything for sure. In whom or in what is our faith? If there is no way to know anything, then there is no foundation for faith at all.
Happily, we have been given that foundation through revelation, specifically God revealing Himself through His Word. While some may say that we cannot understand what the Bible really means when we open and read it, those with an open mind find that it proves to be straightforward after all.
Expository preaching may help to deepen our understanding of some things, but we can take Jesus’ claims about Himself at face value and learn to rest in His promises without the help of an interpreter. Some books and Bible study supplements can often help us apply what we learn from the Word of God, but what Scripture claims about the Holy One, His holy law and His righteous judgment can be taken seriously with a highly appropriate sense of urgency. Worship, religious activities and service may energize the daily application of our faith in God’s Word, but they are eternally meaningful only in response to the great price paid by Jesus’ blood for the redemption of our sins.
Let us not play games with God’s grace and let us certainly not minimize the urgency of the hour. This generation is as much in dire spiritual straits as were the people of the first century who recognized their sinfulness and the inevitable consequence of their unattended condition. The Apostle Peter brought advised his contemporaries with words that remain true for us today:
“When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:37-39).
Our needs are the same as theirs were. Rich or poor, man or woman, young or old, we all need Jesus. We need the power of His cross applied to our lives which comes only through a personal response of faith resulting in repentance and obedience to His Word; and we need Christians to proclaim the freedom found only in the truth of the Gospel of Christ. We need freedom from the rough waters of doubt!