GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICALS
Number 635 • April 28, 2021
SEEKING AND SAVING THE LOST – Part Two
There is salvation. The effective remedy for lostness is available to all. But willingness to accept and apply it is often absent. Unclaimed, the remedy might as well be absent too.
There was a time, according to the Bible, when Christianity was “turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). There was also a time, not long ago, when we liked to revise the statement to suggest we are “turning the upside-down world right side up.” We are obviously not currently accomplishing that worthy goal. What is the reason for our failure?
Before continuing this, we need to understand what “the world” is and what our mission to it is. The world is not planet earth, nor the solar system in which it is placed, nor even the universe at large. I will not dispute that we humans are to be caretakers of the physical world of God’s creation, stewards of the environment in which He has placed us. But some of us are squatters who occupy space that does not belong to us and disrespectfully abuse it and trash it, showing contempt for the true owner of it. The physical world is temporary, not eternal. Its time is limited, though only God knows when its end will come – we have no way of knowing.
The world God loves and gave His Son Christ as a sacrifice to save (John 3:16-17), the world to which we are sent with the gospel of salvation (Mark 16:15-15, Matthew 28:19-20) is the human population, only those creatures able to hear and understand it and respond obediently to it, those who can obey from the heart the form of doctrine delivered to them (Romans 6:17) – our mission is to the people. Emphasize it: Our mission as Christians is not to save the planet but to save the creatures in it whose soul-spirits are made in the image of the Creator God (Genesis 1:26-27) by sharing with them the gospel of His Son. The power of God to save every person of the world is revealed in that gospel (Romans 1:15-17).
Just so you understand, we are not speaking here of reversing climate change, or whatever other ambiguity may be laid at the feet of obstreperous mankind. We are not talking about watering the desert and planting grass and trees there, nor even about cleaning up the rivers, lakes, oceans, and wells and making the water fit for human consumption, nor putting up an astral screen to protect earth from the sun. We do not minimize the importance of protecting our habitat, but that is a peripheral concern.
What is eternally important is the pollution of soul that has overwhelmed the inhabitants of planet earth. The upside-down world sees the creature comforts and personal pleasure pursuits of mankind and unlimited freedom to do whatever pleases them at any time as life’s summum bonum, the chief good and goal of our existence on earth. For them, “I want it and I intend to do anything necessary to get it, no matter what it may cost or do to the one I take it from” justifies every form of crime and violence. Those who try to “understand” the criminal mind and appease, pacify, or bribe the criminals – hoping to “nice” them and “love” them into repentance and change by “appealing to their sense of decency and fairness” should have learned by now that it doesn’t work. Mumbling an obsequious “I’m really on your side and sympathetic to your cause” only adds fuel to the fire. God doesn’t work that way, nor does He demand that we do so.
The flood (Genesis 6–9) was a warning that God isn’t fooling around with the wicked and that He has set a “point of no return” which, if one goes past it, will bring a result in punishment from which there is no reprieve, no escape. The world of humanity may be approaching, may actually have passed, that point of no return. Only a few individuals – am I one of them? Are you? – and not the whole of mankind are still able to escape by turning submissively, obediently, trustingly to the Lord. His gospel is still being preached, but not often with the fire and fervor that once turned the upside-down world right-side up. Our failure may be caused by our lack of fire and fervor, as well as by our lack of faith and fidelity to our God.
If you think I am wrong to say we are failing to bring the lost world to God through Christ you may need to think a little more deeply. See the true situation of the church, see the growing hostility of BLM and ANFIFA and LGBTQ+ to Christianity; see the rapidly diminishing and disappearing presence of altruistic virtue and the near absence of true godliness and the tsunami of selfishness and “my way-ism” among those who refuse to retain the knowledge of God but hypocritically call upon Him to save us from our precarious perch among a persecuting people who see us as a pestilent presence and as pernicious preventers of their peace, preferences, and pursuits. Have we lost the progress made by the faithful Christians of the past? If so, what has caused it? Is it possible to reverse the apostasy, regain the momentum, and recover the backsliders – is it still possible to save a significant portion of the world from itself and the forces of evil that motivate it? If the answer to that question is no, should we hunker down, cowering in our insecure and fallible bunkers and wait for the Lord Jesus to come and rescue us? If the answer is yes to our question, how must we go about the reformation, restoration, and reclamation of God’s people and the church’s potential? What can the righteous do when the foundations are crumbling (Psalm 11:3)?
THE WORLD IS TURNING THE CHURCH UPSIDE DOWN.
The concept of conquering by infiltration and capitalization upon internal differences is ancient. The Trojan Horse fiasco is a great example. Julius Caesar’s “divide and conquer” meme is notable. The misquotation of Abraham Lincoln’s prediction of destruction not from outside but from internal flaws and misdirection is certainly apropos. Senator Joseph McCarthy was certainly correct in his warning that infiltration by forces hostile to a republic such as ours could lead the nation to self-destruct (it is coming true!). But the greatest teacher of all time had a simple undeniable and oft-proved warning about it: a little leaven hidden in the dough or the mix of ingredients would eventually work its way through the whole batch (Matthew 13;33), a figure used effectively by Paul (1 Corinthians 5:6-7, Galatians 5;9) – easily and frequently applied by preachers and teachers today, as I am attempting to do here.
Our Lord also warned about enemies in one’s own house and family (Matthew 10:36). Paul dared to accuse elders of the church of being or producing and sheltering ravening wolves who would not spare the flock of the Lord (Acts 20:17, 28-30). Failure to prevent or counter false teachers and preachers has caused countless trouble and destruction of faith in the Lord’s church. Elders, influenced and guided by preachers, have invited and allowed the world into the church, have disallowed the naming and marking of the intruders and infiltrators and prohibited the naming of problem people or problem doctrines, deciding against being “unnecessarily offensive” – being politically correct and socially correct in our efforts to evangelize in order to avoid offending anyone by suggesting they are wrong – and trying to convince everyone that they can come to the Lord just as they are (the most effective and most loved “invitation” hymn is “Just as I am, O Lamb of God I come to Thee”), rather than persuading people to come to God through Christ in order to be remade into what He wants and requires them to be.
Tens of thousands of professing Christian churches exist to accommodate all tastes, concerns, desires, and preferences of people. Churches have learned to preface their evangelistic efforts with a demographic survey to find out what people want and to assure success by giving them just what they want. They want sexual freedom and license? Give it to them. They want health and wealth? Give it to them. They want power and control? Give it to them (at least let them think they can have it).
We no longer have to warn people that they should love not the world with its lust of the flesh and eyes proud spirit – not to seek the things of the world above the things of Christ (1 John 2:15-17). It is no longer necessary to go outside the church and into the world to find those things. The world has come into the church and turned it away from God. No wonder the world holds the weak and malleable church in contempt. What can we do? Is it too late to do anything? Have we allowed the defeat of the church and the Christ? Yes, I know, I am repeating my complaints and may seem to be yielding to pessimism. Not so! There is something to do. Recovery is still possible.
WE NEED TO WORK WITH GOD TO TURN THE UPSIDE-DOWN CHURCH RIGHT SIDE UP AGAIN.
Stop praying for God to heal the world, restore us to our rightful mind, impose moral sanity and social equanimity, and above all reimpose spiritual stability. Instead, do what we can to save ourselves from the wayward generation which we have inherited and to which we have contributed (Acts 2:40). We will be saved by yielding to God who works in us to do what pleases Him (Philippians 2:12-13). Let us quit pretending the world is better than it is, or that we are better than we are. As workers together with God (2 Corinthians 6:1-2) let us make ourselves and our world what He still wants it to be.
— To be continued.