Oh, what a mess things are in the world. Things are such a mess in this world that many of us don’t think that we and our children and our grand-children long yet to come, have any chance of getting out of this earthly mess alive. That is a spiritual deception: none of us get out of this alive, in the physical sense, for it is appointed to every man one to die (Hebrews 9:27). As we seek not to conform ourselves to this world that is in such a mess (Romans 12:2), then we are actually seeking to conform ourselves to II Corinthians 7:1, to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. That fear of God actually gets us out of this world alive, through the pathway of physical death while in faith with Jesus Christ, so that we avoid the second death (see Matthew 10:28 and Revelation 21:8). So, things perhaps ain’t such a mess – at worst case, our way of escape to security, peace and joy is merely physical death, into a life eternal (Revelation 21:4), without tears, death, sorrow, crying nor pain.
Yet, despite the mess of this world and the people in it, I know that we here in this body are some of the most favored and blessed people in the world, and many in America are blessed in the same way, and so on with so many other clans, churches, peoples, states and nations of the world. But, it is not so, and unfortunately not so, with most of the people of the world.
You can look at the Islamist exploitation of the lives of women, children and men – those with whom they agree and those with whom they disagree. You can look at the desperate lives of refugees in those three major encampments in Ghana, displaced, imprisoned and impoverished by tribal warfare and plain, mean, criminal lawlessness. You can look at the slums of Rio de Janerio, and of Nigeria, and of those developed all across Africa, as villagers have trekked into the urban slums seeking to escape the deforested, eroded lands of their over-populated, now-inhospitable, villages, in the hopes of food, shelter and security.
You can look at the homeless in America, and in any nation of the world, and the children in orphanages around the world – normal children with no parents and little hope, and medically-challenged children as we have prayed for in those other orphanages in the Dominican Republic.
And you can look at our Occupy Wall Streeters, and their record and activities of public indecency – even reported violence and rapes – and uncleanness, even tuberculosis in the Atlanta protest encampment. And you may say of them, that maybe some of their protest points, when they are able to articulate them, rise to the level of creating a point for legitimate debate in the public forum. Yet, regardless of what you may think of them, of their conduct in protest, and of their debate points, in all of their “Occupying”, their almost universal nihilism and anger and disappointment are still very real and clear and very sad.
Yes, oh what a mess we are in, without even stopping to talk about our economies, our jobless, our under-employed, our tax burdens, or about our strategic, military problems and challenges of national defense.
But, I am here today to say, “So, what?” What about all this mess? Is it greatly different, in a gross historical analysis, from the history of man? If there is a difference, is it not true that we are better off with Christ, as well as with the modern advancements in medicine, in comfort of working conditions (when we have jobs), transportation, and shelter, at least throughout much of the world, certainly throughout more of the world than otherwise in the past?
Our worldly mess today is no worse than, and is probably better or less than, at other times in history, viewed merely from a secular viewpoint. Why do I say that: It is because, viewed from a spiritual standpoint, Christ is more available to the individuals, people groups and language groups of the world than ever before in history, and we, and the rest of the world are so, so, much the better off because of that., because of the availability of Christ to the generations of man that walk the face of the planet today. Thank you, God, for evangelism with the Holy Spirit and modern technology!!
In my meditations of late, the Holy Spirit has shown me so clearly a metaphor, in the gathering and dispersing clouds of almost every day. First, in the sky itself there is a metaphor for the spiritual covering over all of mankind, in every place and language. And in this sky, in these gathering and dispersing clouds, I see the changing forms and densities of a restless darkness competing, for space in the sky, with the resiliently flooding and sometimes darting lights of peace and rest. Metaphorically, this competition of light and darkness symbolizes the war of principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this age, of the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (cf., Ephesians 6:12) warring against Jesus Christ, our Defender and Savior, the Messiah, the Son of God, the Prince of Peace, a war of contest for the spiritual covering of mankind.
My readings and discussions and meditations since I was last with you have been almost surreal, as artists have long used light, shadow and darkness to distort reality into the surreal: this metaphor of cloud and sun, darkness and light competing for space in the sky, has been used by the Holy Spirit to nudge me into a place of greater peace and joy, built, not at this point on a greater or different knowledge of facts, but on a different discernment and wisdom. It is that different discernment and wisdom, maybe just different for me, but certainly not new under that sun, or under those clouds, that I come to share with you today.
I have been reading about the geo-political problems, probably the present impossibilities, of exporting or transplanting democracy for self-government of peoples around the world, now and in the future. Our daughter, Claire and our son, CB, and I have discussed, and I have been helped to understand, some of the political and economic ennui, disappointment and frustration shared by much of the current generation with some of the issues of the Occupy Wall
Streeters. Our son, Lamar, and I have been discussing the Vikings and their historical patterns of violence, and their strict moral code, all as an overlay to their establishment of centuries of relative peace, and of governmental stability, in what we now call England, Scotland and Normandy. We, in America, have only been at this business of self-government for a couple of centuries and a bit more; we do not have a long, proven track record as a nation, at least not in the history books. We do not see that we are specifically mentioned as a nation in Scripture. Even on a good day, even without all the mess we in this world are in, we do not know what the future holds for this nation, this little blip on the radar screen of the globe, America.
But we do know this of our Jesus and our world, Isaiah 9:6-7, For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Knowing this about our Jesus and our world, with what should we concern ourselves? With what should we frighten ourselves? What should we do?
We know that more of the world, today, has Jesus Christ available to it, in absolute numbers and, most likely, in percentages, than ever before in history, due to evangelism with the Holy Spirit and modern technology. We are thankful for the obedience of those who went before us, and those who go with us, and who have obeyed the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20, And Jesus came and spoke to them (the eleven disciples) saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The answer lies in the nexus, the connective link, between this evangelism of Matthew 28: 18-20, and the reality of Isaiah 9:7. The nexus between them is Jesus Christ Himself, His reality, His certainty, His faithfulness, and His love for all of mankind.
The unforgettable words of Scarlett O’Hara, in her feigned helplessness (she was never helpless, although often deeply mired in the troubles she brought upon herself or those brought upon her by the circumstances of the life of her generation on the planet), those words, “Oh, what’s a girl to do?” ring loud in our ears, as we look at the mess of this world and ask ourselves, “Oh, what are we to do?”.
In this mess of a world, in this context, I come to you today to share a spirit of affirmation, a word of encouragement, an expectation of hope in the promise of the righteousness of God through and in Christ. I come to you today to share an attitude of heart, an attitude that does not disappoint and will not disappoint, because of the answer we have to the mess of the world– not an answer, but the answer – Jesus Christ, the light of the world.
The answer is in that nexus, that connective link of Scripture: the answer is Jesus Christ known and preached, and Him crucified for our sins (see I Corinthians 2:2). The answer is our standing and living in faith, in expectant hope, hope so expectant that we don’t worry or fret about it, that the government shall be upon the shoulders of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ Himself. The answer is in our sharing – evangelism with the Holy Spirit – God’s gift to mankind, Jesus Christ, with everyone the Holy Spirit leads us to, and that is and will be most everyone!
The answer is, as Jesus proclaimed in His sweet and powerful Sermon on the Mount, in the victory of light over darkness, in the struggle of clouds and sun metaphorically, is this, Matthew 5:14a, You are the light of the world. In other words, Jesus passed to us His torch, John 4:5, to be His light unto the world, to carry on His ministry in this mess of a world.
And here in the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ admonition and challenge to us, Matthew 5: 14-16, You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
What we have to bolster our own faith and to share with others in despair – our neighbor or family member, strangers, Wall Street Occupiers, refugees from poverty and tribal warfare, the sick-deformed-medically challenged and others in orphanages, those deceived or oppressed into Islam is well- summarized by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 1:1-14 (READ Together).
In this passage, in a time when Paul, too, lived in a “mess of a world,” Paul shared to the faithful believers in the Church of Ephesus a spirit of affirmation, a word of encouragement, an expectation of hope in the promise of the righteousness of God through and in Christ and it is that which I come to share with you today. Examine yourselves and you, too, go and sally forth
to share, in strengthening believers and saving the lost, this Christly attitude of heart, an attitude that does not disappoint and will not disappoint, because of the answer we have to the mess of the world–Jesus Christ, the light of the world.
Please mediate, beginning especially this week and continuing through the seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas and the coming of the new year 2012, on the evangelical message of Ephesians 1:1-14, and the comfort and confidence it affords believers, and offers to the unsaved.
Now, a little more explanation: In old military terms, a small door to exit a fortress for a military sortie or assault was called a sally port, and to move through that was to “sally forth”, and connotes to move through it with speed, energy and violence – in Greek, harpazo. Even as we minister and evangelize with the Holy Spirit, in the sweet and loving words of the Sermon on the Mount, even using modern technology of transportation and communication, we are called to do so by sallying forth, with a military-style of organization, delegation, focus and power, because, as Jesus said, Matthew 11:12, And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence (that metaphorical war of clouds and sun, darkness and light), and the violent take it by force.
Don’t be deceived into thinking you can’t get out of the mess of this world alive – you can get out alive, just in the unconventional way of Jesus Christ by first dying. Take that road, the road less travelled by (thank you, Robert Frost), the road of hope in Jesus Christ and it shall make all the difference for you, as it ahs for me, knowing that in Christ we have been adopted as sons to Himself, and we have redemption through His blood, and we have the forgiveness of our sins by His grace, and He has made known to us the mystery of His will, and we have obtained an inheritance and have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. And this, my friends is a hope that does not disappoint!
God bless you and amen+