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WHAT IS THE MESSAGE FOR OUR TIME?

WHAT IS THE MESSAGE FOR OUR TIME?

By Roger Salter
Special to VIRTUEONLINE
www.virtueonline.org
March 16, 2019

Believers are ever hopeful for an apt message for their time which will be mightily empowered by the Spirit of God for human salvation on a massive scale, and for the signal defeat of the malignantly oppressive forces of evil on the loose in our midst. There is always the keen expectation of the occurrence of divine intervention, and much prayer for such a welcome event. It is a sincere yearning of the people of God.

On the other hand, in some cases, there is a glib anticipation of a timely work of God as a solution to the low fortunes of the preaching of the gospel, and this attitude may be nothing more than a slight view of sin, no sense of the gravity of guilt, and the lazy indulgence of the spirit of frivolous presumption emerging from a sense of entitlement that God must of necessity rush to our aid to save our face as an embattled church in a hostile world. We want results without due awareness of the problem, prayerful endeavor, and perseverance.

In the wisdom of God both mercy and judgment are continuously meted out from the throne of heaven. We may confidently say that mercy is measured out with abundant and undeserved generosity and that, conversely, judgment is often withheld and exercised with delay. However, we with our Christian and compassionate desires cannot dictate the flow of divine kindness nor stay grievous judgments that befall hardened and unrepentant sinfulness perpetrated by fallen mankind. Mercy and judgment are, if not equivalent in manifestation, concurrent in operation, and the Lord is the sovereign arbiter of the exercise of each. He is to be both trusted and feared. Turning Abraham's question into a declaration we are able to affirm, "Will not the judge of all the earth do right!" (Genesis 18:25). Patience is a pronounced element in prayer and allied to perseverance.

The soundly established truth of Holy Scripture is that our holy God is totally reliable, but in his providential government the specifics of his wise and just action cannot be predicted. "Who knows? He may turn and have pity" (Joel 2:14a). The Lord's prerogatives are sovereignly determined for he perceives the exact and essential moral nature of every situation absolutely exhaustively. His verdicts are righteous and fair and cannot be disputed. When we petition him, we pray confident in his goodness but also in humility. Father knows best.

Abraham, the great and humane intercessor on behalf of men, pleaded for Sodom and Gomorra, especially with his nephew Lot in mind, but the two cities' obdurate embedded-ness in horrendous and indescribable depravity could not possibly dissuade or avoid the ferocity of divine wrath aimed fearfully upon them. Who can tell when the irreversible step toward certain destruction has been taken? Who can assess when a nation or culture has earned the anger of and subsequent abandonment by God? His departure is the solemn and scary guarantee of perdition.

Sacred Scripture is replete with warnings against the refusal of the Lord's grace and pardon. 'Therefore the Lord said to me, "Do not pray for the wellbeing of this people . . . I will not listen to this cry . . . I will not accept them"' (Jeremiah 14:11-12 cf John 5:16-18. Intercession is not a casual matter and conditional upon the decrees of God). There is borderline that we cannot discern and repentance is always encouraged as deliverance from destruction - a course avidly proposed by Jeremiah - but the Lord knows when appeal to heaven is futile and condemnation inevitable: "My spirit will not contend with man forever" (Genesis 6:3).

It may be that there is no message of hope or saving reproof any longer available to wayward Western culture or its apostate Christianity.

How far may we be permitted to go in our disobedience and arrogant defiance of God? Perhaps his favor is now reserved only for the holy, yet undeserving, remnant that he has reserved to himself (1 Kings 19:18). Perhaps the people of God are now due for torrid and tormenting times in an era of general retribution.

Our generation is now accustomed to rampant godlessness and serious misbehavior. Sins are now condoned and encouraged that would shock our forefathers of recent decades (not that they at heart before God were necessarily any more righteous). The media, popular culture, and even the great ones of the earth are at ease with, and even encourage, moral mischief. The malaise or distemper of moral turpitude is almost ubiquitous in ecclesiastical influence (insipid compliance with the mood of the age), political enforcements, commercial exploitation, the enticements of the entertainment industry (cinema, rock music and its many degenerate performers, and best-selling literature). So much that is now touted as "classic" is simply corrosive of decent human character, community life and individual experience. A mere or even accidental glimpse into the evil undercurrents of contemporary society is horrifying and unnerving. Suggestive innuendo aimed at recruitment to foul practices is rife in many easily available forms disseminated through powerful agents of distribution.

In the early 1970s Martyn Lloyd Jones wondered as to how long the Lord would be long-suffering toward errant Britain. The nation's wickedness and neglect of God seemed to be at a frightful pitch. A little later an eminent Anglican scholar and preacher opined that it seemed that England had by far over-stepped the limits of divine forbearance, as if hope were nearly lost. Over the past five decades England has rapidly deteriorated and descended into utter decadence and moral defilement. Some of our political and ecclesiastical leadership have simply lost their senses and been overtaken by a spirit of delusion in an atmosphere of lawlessness. Scripture observes that every sort of evil deceives those who are perishing (it is as grave as that); "They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie", or a battery of lies that Satan so artfully spreads (2 Thessalonians 2: 5-12). Our current politicians are the perfect imitation of squabbling children, caught up in the sheer naughtiness of silly notions and dangerous parliamentary motions - intellectual pretentiousness devoid of discernment.

Two of our recent prime ministers, like senseless miscreant boys, have besmirched the honor of their country. Blair aspired to creating London as a haven of "gay" attraction and amusement, and Cameron introduced the legislation for the false notion of "marriage" for same sex couples. The promotion of current evils is highly energetic and well organized. According to Rolling Stone magazine, one wealthy and enthusiastic promoter of sexual license and the wrongs that prevail has very deliberately pledged a strong, well-funded campaign in the American South (not necessarily a region of biblical orthodoxy) for the overthrow of detested Christian ethics.

The Church of England is on the rocks and sinking fast under its non-admirable admiral, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Our slick and shallow recent leaders such as Tony Blair and David Cameron have plunged the country into the miry morass of moral degradation. And Brexit now reveals discord, division, and disarray that has seized the hapless nation that cannot bring itself to look Godward.

The catastrophic condition of the nation beggars belief. The consequences are in the hand of God, beyond human recovery, and we continue to earnestly pray that God has not passed us by. But the sky is filled with menacing dark clouds, and the land with sinister portents.

The Anglican hierarchy today would offer a firmer and truer leadership in these troublous days of political, social, intellectual and spiritual turmoil with Cranmer's theological weight, spiritual awareness, and quiet resolution. . . . He furnished a sound doctrinal confession in the Articles, the Bishops' Book, The Catechism, The Litany and the Homilies.

The Anglican hierarchy today would offer a firmer and truer leadership in these troublous days of political, social, intellectual and spiritual turmoil with Cranmer’s theological weight, spiritual awareness, and quiet resolution. . . . He furnished a sound doctrinal confession in the Articles, the Bishops’ Book, The Catechism, The Litany and the Homilies.

The Rev. Roger Salter is an ordained Church of England minister where he had parishes in the dioceses of Bristol and Portsmouth before coming to Birmingham, Alabama to serve as Rector of St. Matthew's Anglican Church

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