By John Steele Gordon Christmas famously "comes but once a year." In fact, however, it comes twice. The Christmas of the Nativity, the manger and Christ child, the wise men and the star of Bethlehem, "Silent Night" and "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" is one holiday. The Christmas of parties, Santa Claus, evergreens, presents, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Jingle Bells" is quite another.
A few days ago a co-worker remarked during a conversation on the economic downturn that “It’s a sign of the end, the end of days.” Well, maybe so and maybe not. The end is certainly nearer today that it was yesterday. But, maybe in his case it’s just a sign of bad exegesis.
Religious leaders from the beginning of time have warned when righteousness has been under attack. Noah did it. The prophets of Israel did too, up through John the Immerser. Christ and his apostles did so urging repentance as had all the previous. Preachers of righteousness in every age since have repeated identical warnings.
These calls in the scriptures always came in conjunction with God’s judgment on somebody or some nation, but none of these judgments have thus far (I think) been the end of all time, of Judgment Day. Uh, yep, it’s true none of these thus far has been the end of things for this age and the world as we know it.
You can hear similar calls for repentance now. There have been warnings issued by men and women that rebellion towards God increases with lawlessness and that there is a concerted effort and a conscious systematic attack being made against truth, on the religion of the Bible, on decency and goodness.
But, as soon as any call to repent is put forth, the “end timers” start gazing at the stars and head for the high mountains dressed in white. And some people scream and immediately run for the exits, turn the page, or hit the mute button. You’d think we were watching a horror movie. Eyes roll and the head sways from side to side — and the thought is “Oh no, here it comes!”
It seems there is always someone figuratively or literally walking around with that cardboard sign — the one that says “Repent for the end is near.” Several denominations stake their claim on identifying the precise point for “The End.” The misnamed Jehovah’s Witnesses have issued end time dates for nearly a century (all wrong thus far!). Several others have too. It seems these folks are not from Jehovah and they haven’t witnessed very much or they might have gotten something right. But, here we remain and everything is just as it has always been. The sun comes up and the sun goes down on another day. And it is as Jesus stated it would be “For they will be marrying and giving in marriage.” Things go on pretty much as usual.
So, with that caveat, I too will join that earthly host and offer that righteousness is suffering under a withering attack today. We need to be reminded every once in a while that it is easy to wander off. We need to repent and set things aright. God will certainly judge us all in his time.
However, godlessness is a sign of godlessness – nothing more or less; and we do not and will not know when the end of all things will be. Still that does not mean that righteousness IS NOT under attack. Right now we are growing more and more godless everyday (at least in this western society).
The evidence can be observed in the creative arts, in literature, music, on television, within our educational institutions, in the government, in movies and unfortunately, even in churches. And it has been documented by the secular media.
The Gallop organization stated this some time back: “As a people we lack deep levels of spiritual commitment. One sign of this is that the level of ethics in this country seems to be declining. We found there is little difference between the churched and the un-churched in terms of their general view on ethical matters, and also their practical ethical responses in various situations.” Other non-religious groups have noted similar things.
One needs only to look at the rhetoric and some of the stuff that was said or reported during the recent interminable presidential and congressional campaigns to find evidence of ethical lapses on the part of some of the participants.
And though some may blush upon hearing and seeing the types of things that pass before our ears and eyes, for the most part we have hardened sensibilities, short memories, and too easy dispositions. We simply wave it all off. Only occasionally do we get riled up enough to make a change, where something burns into our conscience and elicits a serious response. Perhaps this economic slump will cause some to look introspectively at what is important and to things that should not be neglected.
We put up with lots of things that we really should not put up with. We’ve grown accustomed to bad manners and bad behavior at the office, in our lives and in front of our eyes. We seem to prefer the lowest sorts to be in charge of things. Scurrilous behavior is often ignored or defended unapologetic. Petty theft is tolerated and openly practiced; using the company’s or somebody else’s assets for personal use is commonplace; and cheating on things as simple as expense accounts or reports is a daily occurrence. “Fudging” the facts happens regularly on every level. And lying is not so much common as it appears universal; while no one ever gets called on the carpet. Liquor is served everywhere, including in the best of homes (sometimes to the kids). Sin just doesn’t mean much to us today. Happy Holidays!
It is easy to fall prey to these types of behaviors if you should forget for a minute that as a Christian you are called to be Godlike in your pursuits. It has happened to me and probably to you too. Within the proverbial blink of an eye we can each one of us end up with that conscience that has been seared with the hot poker Satan carries around with him. So, we need to return to God and to his word, to be at the ready when his Son returns to collect his own — or else we will end up with the wrong collection agency.
In any age righteousness can take a serious slide when good people do nothing and simply turn away from godliness and put up with godlessness. But the end will come when God Almighty has planned it and when the time is right and not a minute sooner. It is not our business to know when. The warning in the scriptures is for everyone to be prepared everyday. Paul told the Corinthians to “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.” So, we are advised to live as sojourners without any permanence: in a state of readiness, awake and aware of what is going on around us.
Being godlike is defined in the scriptures and not by the likes of GQ; and certainly not by religious sorts whose so called prophecies don’t ever hit and stick. According to the scriptures, the prophet’s test is in whether or not what they say comes true. So, unfortunately, we have a lot of false prophets predicting end dates and teaching false doctrines.
The Bible is the least read book most people own. Worst of all: many of the people practiced in sins such as these mentioned here and in the full catalog, still call themselves Christians without blinking an eye. They are mostly ready for lunch; not to meet the Lord. And certainly many will be stunned if the Lord comes in the clouds during our lifetimes. It might ruin the day.
“Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive. Make the heart of this people dull and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return and be healed.”
What say we close with a rousing chorus of “Oh, How I Love Jesus,” or perhaps a favorite Christmas carol?