It has become abundantly clear that the contemporary church is convinced that the effective church is one that is timely (i.e.in step “with the times”). Obviously this is true to a certain degree. But I would suggest it to be equally true that the effective church is also “behind the times” and “ahead of the times.” In other words, effectiveness is not in just being “timely” but also in being “untimely.” We must be “timely” in addressing the needs of the day in the language of the day and through the available technology of the day. Yet “untimely” because the answer to the needs of the day has been given yesterday: the Gospel of grace which “has been delivered to us” and also points us ultimately to tomorrow when Christ returns and brings an end to time which is the time that our joy will be complete. Additionally, we must embrace the “untimeliness” of living in light of the inevitable future which includes the continued and intensifying onslaught of the evil one as well as the promised ultimate victory of Christ in the fulfillment of His Word in a New Heavens and New Earth established by His glorious second coming.
Until then, we will suffer, falter, fail, triumph, confess, repent, obey, trust and be untrustworthy. In a word, we will live as sinners, saved by grace, yet “growing in grace” until Christ returns. Then we will be delivered into the unalterable glory of the perfections of Christ, and, most of all, we will be with Christ.
Therefore, we cannot dismiss the past nor should we live in the past. The church must learn from the past yet avoid becoming a museum of the past. We must live in the present but not accommodate the present or simply seek to be “trendy.” Finally, we must by God’s grace seek to change but never wait for the future. This is what Peter means by stating that can “hasten” the coming of the Lord which obviously effects the future through our faithfulness to the God of the past and our engagement for the Glory of God in the present.
It might be said, “Harry, you are in danger of ‘setting the church back fifty years.’” My reply would be, if that is true, then I have failed. I would actually like to set the church back two thousand years in order for it to land effectively in the challenges of this year and the coming years – backward Christian soldiers to go onward. While I desire to look to the future from the heights of the past works of God, the glorious Word of God, and the triumphant victory of God as well as engaging in the present valley of battle for my God, I must not put my faith in the future, nor the past, nor the present. Instead, my heart’s desire must be to walk the roadmap provided by God in the Scripture into the future which will change the future so that all will hear the claims of Christ and be ready for the coming of Christ. Then, on that day, we will hear from our Savior, “Well done, good and faithful servants” who have served Him consistently from the untimely past and future creating a timely ministry in the present. Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever….He is before time, above time and outside of time as well as beyond time. The answer to relevance is not so much timeliness but Christ, who intentionally makes us both timely and untimely.
A FINAL THOUGHT…
The Gospel is always “timely” as it declares our deliverance today from the power, penalty and practice of our sins through Christ our Lord. Yet, the Gospel also persistently reveals itself as “untimely” as it insistently points away from “today” to the “tomorrow” when He will deliver us from the presence of our sins to Himself in a New Heavens and a New Earth. Perhaps Isaac Watts sums it up best with the glorious stanza of his hymn of praise… “O God our Help in Ages Past, our Hope for Years to Come.”
Praise God for the Gospel. It was true then, it is true now and it will be true forever. It was relevant and transforming then, it is relevant and transforming now and it will be relevant and transforming until the Day of Forever. Praise God for Christ, who is the Lord of time and does everything on time. Praise God for the timeless message of the Gospel, for the means of grace – preaching, fellowship, prayer, the Sacraments and the glorious “crown jewel” of Christianity, the praise of God in worship. The world considers worship a waste of time but we see it as the greatest use of our time! As one theologian said, “worship is a royal waste of time.” Finally, Praise God for the Holy Spirit who empowers and enables us to live for Christ all the time until the end of time. Come quickly Lord Jesus… HLR