Into the Gloaming with Courage

I had the misfortune today of reading the news online. The first headline concerned a “Red Threat,” about tensions between Russia and America reaching “dangerous levels.” The second headline was about Oregon’s governor lauding a “clemency push for violent criminals.” The third headline was video footage of a “brazen crime in NYC” wherein the criminal simply walked out without being so much as bothered by security personnel. The upshot of the headlines: chaos is carrying the day. Crime is paying. Criminals are being glorified. Lawfulness is mocked and blasphemy is praised.

This is the macro level, the bird’s-eye view. But when you talk to your own people on the micro level, with the day-to-day view, it all comes into sharper focus, a sharper image. We are undergoing a dissolution, an undoing. For those with theological moorings, we are undergoing divine judgment.

Of course the secularist scoffs at such a notion. “Divinity? Hah! Nonsense. There’s no Divinity in charge, up there somewhere, ruling the nations. We’re on our own,” they contend. Well, if that’s true, where’s all the “progress” the Enlightenment promised? How is secular humanism panning out? How is “the brotherhood of man” looking for you? Is Utopia just around the corner still?

It’s funny when I read the secularists. They hate the God they say they don’t believe in, but then they demand “rights.” Rights? But you are just so much matter in motion. Why should material causes be granted rights? Says who? Who told you you were special? You’re just goo, according to your own worldview. Rights? Meh.

There is another way, of course. It’s the biblical way. It’s the way that says the world is a mess because it is fallen. People are a mess because we are fallen. Politics is a mess because fallen sinners want their own fallen sinful ways.

But the biblical way also is crystal-clear in its offer of reconciliation and hope. It centers on Christ and the Gospel. In Acts 17, the Jewish apostle Paul, having become a Christian years earlier (see Acts 9), is in Athens, Greece. He has been explaining that man is an idolater by nature. He worships idols. He worships lies and liars, but God commands us to love the truth, not lies. And the people’s reactions to Paul’s biblical teaching were just what you should expect, if you have a correct anthropology: some mocked (Acts 17:32a); some gave him another hearing (Acts 17:32b); and some believed (Acts 17:34).

The world has been a mess since Genesis 3, since the Fall. Man wants his own way, not God’s way, unless and until individuals are reconciled to the God who is, the God of the Bible. That’s not a popular message. Never has been. But it’s the truth.

So when you see the sun going down, when you lament the gloaming of the culture you’re in, when you see violence rewarded, and virtue penalized, know that you have a choice. You can shake your head in fear and revert to pietistic retreat and mutter, “Oh, isn’t it all just dreadful?” or you can saddle up, be of good courage, strengthen yourself in the Lord and His Word, and know that Paul came before you, and fought the good fight. You can be of good courage, and know that Timothy came before you, and fought the good fight. You can be of good courage, and know that John came before you, and fought the good fight. You can read of heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11, and then go back and study the lives of those men and women who showed courage and fought the good fight.

But ultimately, if you’re a Christian, you will know Christ. You will see that He is the historical proof of courage, of faithfulness, of righteousness, and of triumph in the end. Look to Him. In Paul’s words in Acts 17 in Athens that day in the first century:

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:30-31)

It was not a popular message then. It is not a popular message now. But is it true? And if it is, may we have the courage to deal with it.

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