In Romans chapter one the Apostle Paul begins his exposition of the Gospel with a brief statement about the Gospel (1:16-17) – which he will soon expand and expound in the letter – and then moves to a tightly constructed declaration of Divine judgment now revealed “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” (Romans 1:18-34)In this theological narrative Paul explains the inevitable course of Spiritual Entropy by Divine design whenever a culture/society is devoid of a cogent, courageous and compassionate Gospel witness of redeeming grace and its companion common grace.
Our culture reflects this profile even as others have throughout the ages. In fact, as the three exchanges of sinful rebellion and the three Divine acts of “giving over” are observed in the text, it is clear our nation is in the third downgrade which is socially and legally approved “sexual anarchy” leading to a shameless culture of depravity. How did a nation, society, and culture so providentially blessed by the Gospel arrive at a point where righteousness is not only suppressed but “evil called good” and “good called evil?” Beyond that, how has that which was once affirmed as sacred and foundational (i.e. freedom of religion, the sanctity of life, marriage and family) now mocked and any who might raise their voice to call us back to sanity ridiculed? More than ridiculed, those who would speak for ethical sanity are dismissed as intolerant bigots by a new culture which lives by intolerance and bigotry.
If Paul is right, and he is, the reason for this is the absence of a humble yet courageous, thoughtful yet convicting verbal and visual Gospel witness. In other words, the problem is not that the world/culture has lost its way. On the contrary, the world/culture has found and returned to its way. It is the Church and the individual Christian who have lost their way. We are the ones who, from pew and pulpit, are to send the flowing rivers of a Gospel defined and empowered redeeming grace and common grace into the public arena as we minister to people one by one and speak to the society issue by issue.
This means the “first responders” to our Lord’s call and this present distress must be Christ’s church and authentic Christians. This would lead us to obey our Lord’s directive – “judgment begins with the household of God.” We must repent of our idolatry of cultural affirmation and applause in the name of contextualization and relevance. We must abandon our functional rejection of the binding and invigorating sanctity, supremacy and sufficiency of God’s Word which is the Truth. We must have pastors who repent of believing the church exists to give us work instead of the reality that we exist to do the Lord’s work in His Church – “the people have become like their teachers.” This blog cannot possibly contain all that we need to confess, repent of and pursue with a new obedience.
So, in light of this week’s remembrance of the Reformation, I would propose the following Biblical remedy.
GOSPEL AWAKENING – REVIVAL – NEW REFORMATION
We are in need of a Gospel Awakening in this nation. Yes, this nation. A heart to take the Gospel to “all the nations” does not preclude a priority of reaching your own nation. On the contrary, integrity demands it. The Reformers understood this and modeled it. The prayer of Knox, whose ministry ultimately blessed the world, was “Give me Scotland or I die.” As the English Reformers Latimer and Ridley literally embraced the fire for Christ in Oxford the word to Ridley from Latimer was “Be of good courage Mr. Ridley for today we shall light a candle for Christ that shall not be put out in all of England.” We, throughout the world, still gain light and heat from that candle for Christ in England. Calvin, who would send missionaries throughout the world from Geneva, even to Brazil, prioritized his own country, France, with over 1300 missionaries and letters accompanied by dangerous visits to pastors and churches.
To have a Gospel Awakening the church must receive a Heaven-sent Gospel-saturated, Holy Spirit-delivered, God-glorifying and Bible-shaped revival. Today’s church, impotent and illiterate, opting to be either a museum of past religion or an accommodating cultural participant in the name of relevance, is in desperate need of revival prayer and preaching.
To have revival prayer and preaching we are in need of a New Reformation. The preachers, elders and leaders of our Lord’s church must be moved upon by the Lord of glory and grace. Then we will be done with “lesser things” and that means we will be done with ourselves and become consumed with Christ and fully committed to proclaiming the preeminence and prominence of Christ. When God begins a life-changing and world-shaking Gospel movement it is clear from both history and Scripture that He works through His church and that means He intentionally raises up preachers and leaders who relentlessly love Him “who first loved” them and passionately love to tell the world of Him – the Lord of grace and glory.
But all of this means one more thing. If we are in need of a Gospel Awakening delivered through our Lord’s church… and if that means His Church is in need of Revival… and if that means we need a new Reformation providing leaders and preachers who will connect His church to the life lines of protracted intercessory prayer and Gospel preaching… then that means…
It must begin with me – and how about you? Then we will again proclaim Christ, King of Kings over all the nations to our nation. Not a tribal God for this nation but the God of Glory and Grace to our nation. Beginning with me the cry of the Reformers and their spiritual offspring must again arise – “For Christ’s Cross and Crown.”
A nation descending into the abyss as a consequence of our sin and an impotent professing church as well as the Divine design of sin’s judgment awaits us to awaken to Christ. Even knowing that, those who are in rebellion against the Lord God need to be given eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to receive. It seems as if they are more willing to speak with us than we seem willing to speak to them.