Editor’s Note: This article by Dr. Michael Brown also appears in The Christian Post.
America’s greatest crisis today is not economic, nor is it political, social, or military. To be sure, we are teetering on the edge of a massive financial collapse, while at the same time we are politically and socially divided, not to mention mired in two or three costly wars.
But our greatest crisis goes deeper. It is a spiritual crisis, and because it is a spiritual crisis, it is a moral crisis. The light within us has become dark (see Matt 6:23) and the salt has lost its saltiness (see Matt 5:13). The Church of Jesus, which is called to be the spiritual lamp and the moral preservative of society, has fallen asleep. The awakening must begin with us.
This is not to minimize the many acute problems we face in our country today. Abortion on demand still takes more than a million lives a year. The family unit continues to erode. Gay activism continues to challenge our biblical values and freedoms. Human trafficking, gang violence, teen drug use, and a host of other social ills stare us in the face. But our problem is not so much the presence of darkness as it is the absence of light. The finger must first be pointed at us.
You see, it is to be expected that sinful people do sinful things and that worldly people do worldly things. But it is unexpected when those called to be righteous live just like the world, when the sins of the society become the sins of the Church, when it is the world that changes the Church rather than the Church that changes the world. Can anyone really dispute that for the last generation this is exactly what has happened?
It was Dr. Martin Luther King who noted that,
The Church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool.
This certainly cuts to the core of the never-ending debate about the meaning of the separation of Church and state. But King also issued this warning:
If the Church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.
What an indictment of the American Church today. Having lost our prophetic zeal – our consciousness of God, our conviction of sin, our brokenness for the lost, our courage to go against the grain and challenge the status quo, our moral imperative – we have become, in all too many cases, an irrelevant social club. In fact, it would not be that far out of line for many of our religious assemblies to change their marquees to read, “Irrelevant Social Club: Meets Sunday Mornings and Wednesday Nights.”
Without a doubt, there is a godly remnant that is seeking God, reaching out, touching the world, making a difference, but we deceive ourselves if we imagine it is anything more than a remnant. George Barna discovered that the most accurate articulation of the moral standard of today’s Christian teens was “whatever,” while Prof. Kenda Creasy Dean in her book Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church, argued persuasively that the toothless and tepid Christianity found among young people in many of our churches has been inherited directly from their parents.
We have gotten to the point where we hope (rather than take for granted) that the famous pastor or evangelist or teacher whose ministry has so blessed us will not be caught in some kind of moral scandal, while on the local level, millions of people are dropping out of church participation because of boredom and disillusionment. This is not the “glorious Church” for which Jesus died and rose and sent His Spirit. Something is terribly wrong and something is clearly missing.
But it is not time for us to point accusing fingers at this denomination or that leader, at this local congregation or at that TV preacher. Rather, as Ambrose said, “Before God can deliver us, we must undeceive ourselves,” and the awakening that we so desperately need, yes, the awakening that America must have, begins with each of us individually. Each of us must search our own hearts and lives and ask, “Have I left my first love? Have I become cold or compromised? Have the values of the world corrupted me? Have I become polluted by sin?”
As an old evangelist once counseled, the best way to pray for revival is to draw a circle on the ground, then step inside that circle, and then pray, “Lord, revive everything inside this circle.” Let the awakening begin with us.
Dr. Michael Brown is the author of A Queer Thing Happened to America and the host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio Network.
Posted in Featured Articles, Revival & Prayer Tagged with: abortion, Almost Christian, awakening, christian post, conviction, Dr. Michael Brown, Kenda Creasy Dean, Martin Luther King, Revival, seeking God
“…. and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us…. ” -Acts 17.26-27
There are times in the life of a saint when the Lord will bring him into transition and move him from one place to another, one function to another, or one occupation to another. Often the minds of believers are occupied with searching for the next transition, hoping for another position, looking over the horizon to some idyllic destiny. We hope for a picturesque scenario, where there is no turbulence or trial, no uncertainty or mystery, and where all the pieces of the puzzle seem to fit together effortlessly and without thought.
God, in dealing with His children, will have none of this. He is bent on establishing reality, and His reality is ever and always opposed to our idealistic wish-dreams, particularly those aspirations that are not grounded in a jealousy for His glory. He has “determined” our appointed times and boundaries, which is to say, it is in His calculated purpose for us to live in the specific generation that we live in. It is in His design for us to abide within the physical boundaries wherein He has placed us. If we are willing to follow Him wheresoever He calls us, and we have yet to hear a word of some great transition, we must conclude that He has us where we are for a significant reason. And that reason is supremely this:
“…. that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him…. “
The current press and trial of life, whatever it may be, is most likely a “determined” tool meant for the refinery of the saint, and it has been initiated by the great Potter Himself. Have we been vessels of pliable clay, or are we hardening our hearts towards His dealings? We are too often looking for the greener grass on the other side, when the real purpose of being on this side is that we “would seek God,” “grope for Him and find Him,” exactly as He is.
If you are gripped with anxiety about the future, about entering ministry, or pursuing some higher position of occupation, you are missing the point of your present location and orientation. The real key for transitioning rightly is not in seeking all the options set before you in your own wisdom and rationale, but in seeking God Himself. He will permit the most exquisite and painstaking sufferings in our lives, if they are necessary to bring us to the place where we are quickened to seek and grope for Him.
We may see others advancing in areas where we feel we should be advancing, but the word of the Lord to us is the same as it was to Peter, when he coveted John’s long life in light of his own foreseen martyrdom:
“…. what is that to you? You follow Me!” (Jn. 21.22)
Often the seasons in which He seems most absent are the seasons when He is present and at His greatest work in our souls. His silence is not evidence of His standoffishness, as much as it is a Fatherly kind of waiting upon us, to see if we will respond as His sons in the test that He has permitted. When that press and turmoil is upon our hearts, do we turn inwardly, looking for an answer within our own shoddy logic? Do we look to flesh and blood, or do we “seek God”, “grope for Him and find Him?”
The promise holds true for us all, “He is not far from each one of us.”
Look not to that idyllic world of your own contrived destiny. Look not to what men say you are entitled to by virtue of any worldly accomplishment. Look not to despair or fear or bewilderment in the face of the weighty trial. Seek God. Grope for Him, right from the ground He has placed you upon in the here and now. That is the central issue. He is the central issue. Your transition, position, and destiny are totally secondary to seeking and beholding the Lord of History. And if He knows how to oversee the whole of history, He is wise enough to lead His sheep through the hills and valleys of our lives.
He is trustworthy, dear saint, and when we seek His face on “less-than-green” grounds, all things work together for our conformity to the image of His Son.
Posted in Featured Articles, The Kingdom of God Tagged with: calling, contentment, destiny, direction, listening to God, Peace, seeking God, trusting God
“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” -Matt. 6.6
There is something most holy and precious about obediences and acts of loyalty that are carried out unto the Lord in secret. The real discrepancy in modern ministry is not a lack of activity or enthusiasm, but a woeful lack of true foundations, and this malady stems from the neglect of a secret life with God.
At the end of the day, all our anxieties, fears, compromises, moral collapses, and worldly strivings can be traced back to a threadbare secret life. We may be gifted in some form of ministry, waxing eloquent in spiritual talk, and impressing our friends and colleagues, but when the heat and press of real life strikes our hearts, our best facades wither for want of the reality of Jesus Christ. “Beholding Him, we are changed,” but when the secret place of prayer is forsaken for other things, we are “mere men” with no heavenly distinctive in the earth.
The Lord has never cared much for religious performances. Feverish and self-conscious attempts at spirituality are ever and always driven by the desire to be seen and approved by men. He has always been the great Purist in terms of a jealousy for reality and “truth in the innermost parts”, and this can only be established and maintained when we are engaging Him in the secret place. It takes time to cultivate a secret life, for we are an inwardly itchy and distracted people, always yearning for recognition and praise. But during Jesus’ earthly sojourn, He left us with the preeminent example of Sonship, living out a seemingly mundane 30 years of submission to earthly parents and carpentry work, while abiding with His heavenly Father when there was no one to pat Him on His back. His identity was found totally in the favor the Father, and so He was able to live in a distinctive manner, “full of grace and truth”, unmoved by criticism and unaffected by flattery.
He did not strive for the recognition of His name or His spirituality, but lived a common life in a radically uncommon way. If anyone had the earthly right to “toot” their own horn it would have been Him, but He demonstrated the wisdom of God by glorying in that which only His Father could see. And when the day of His showing forth came, He emerged from the Jordan waters as One upon Whom the Spirit rested “without measure.”
Dear saint, get your eyes off of men, and cease this deathly cycle of seeking their praise and acceptance. As you fix your eyes upon “Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith,” you will be delivered from strife and brought into the real rest of sonship. All things will be made new. He will bring you into His heart and purpose, and your secret life with God will become your supreme treasure.
The great enemy of the Lord Jesus Christ in the present day is the conception of practical work that has not come from the New Testament, but from the systems of the world in which endless energy and activities are insisted upon, but no private life with God. -Oswald Chambers
(Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God, by David McCasland; Discovery House Publishers, 1993; p. 187)
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: authenticity, encountering God, foundations, humility, inner life, Jesus, obedience, Oswald Chambers, prayer, secret life, seeking God