The Problem with Today’s Evangelism

There are lot of discussions about the decline of the church, of the irrelevancy of the Christian message and how the Church needs to engage in today’s cultural narrative in order to communicate the gospel.

The biggest problem with today’s evangelism is that it mostly absent. Many churches and influential Christian leaders stopped sharing the gospel. They have exchanged the gospel message with a cultural narrative.

Today, we witness a confused church with confused and conflicting messages. Many churches and Christian leaders are stuck in the gluey cultural narrative. They desperately want to be viewed as loving, inclusive, accepting and culturally competent. This desire drove them into narratives contrary to the gospel message. In the Western world the church fights to remain visible. But being visible and being powerful is not the same. The salt is most powerful when it’s not visible. We are supposed to be the salt of the world.

Now, I know that this is an ugly generalization, but if we compare the message of the Church today with the message of the Church in the past, we see a significant difference. In the evangelical church we see a strong tradition of gifted evangelists and a bold emphasis on the proclamation of the gospel along with a movement of mobilizing and training lay people to share their faith. This bold, clear, gracious voice is definitely fading away.

In a big proportion we’ve exchanged the message of the “eternal gospel” to cultural and political messages. [The “eternal gospel” (Rev 14:6-11) is God’s invitation which is proclaimed from God’s throne room to join the multitudes of worshipers; and it’s God’s warning about his coming judgement while offering a rescue through Jesus Christ.]

The author of Ecclesiastes offers a relevant warning to the church today to stay faithful to the task we’ve been commissioned to do: proclaiming the gospel (Mk 16:15) and making disciples (Mt 28:18-20).

He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap. As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything. In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.

Ec 11:4-6 (ESV)

Here are three warnings for today’s church from the ancient past:

Don’t let the ‘wind’ scare you. Don’t focus on what you can’t control.

“He who observes the wind will not sow…” says the Preacher (Solomon, the son of David). The wind is part of the environment of the sower. It does impact where the seed will fall, but it will not impact the power the seed caries. If we focus on the wind, we will never sow.

Today, we are obsessed with “the wind”, with the environment that surrounds the church. We are obsessed with the culture. The church talks more about the cultural, political, social issues than about the gospel. We’ve exchanged the gospel-proclamation to talking about all other issues: gender, race, culture, economics, etc. We made everything a gospel-issue while we have stopped proclaiming the gospel itself.

The cultural environment (the ‘wind’) that impacts the sowing scared us so much, that we’ve stopped sowing. We are so occupied with the “what ifs” (“What if the culture reacts a certain way?” “What if what we say is not relevant anymore?”) that we forgot that we are not wind-observers, but gospel-sowers. We forgot that our job is not to “change the wind”, but to “sow the seed.” We are overly concerned about “how will our message be received?”, “how will it land in the hearts of people?”, “how can we change or influence the culture?”.

We had not been commissioned to change the culture, we had been commissioned to deliver and model a message. The culture will never be changed by us embracing the cultural dialogue – it will only be changed by sowing the seed of the gospel. We forgot that the change (provision, food, health) will come through the seed, not through the wind. The seed bearing fruit will bring healing and provision to the land.

Sadly, so many influential leaders in the Church exchanged what we can control (sowing the seed, proclaiming the gospel), to something that we can’t control, nor change (our cultural environment). The Roman Empire just became more and more hostile and culturally evil, unjust and immoral while the church focused on sowing the seed.

Many churches and leaders had been paralyzed by the cultural ‘wind’. We need to stop listening to it.

Life-creating power is built into the seed. God will work beyond our understanding and without our consent.

Solomon continues his reasonings: “As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.” (Ec 11:5).

Life-creating power is built into the seed. It needs to be sown.

We don’t know anything about how God creates life, yet we readily restrict Him by our limited observations and understanding as we withhold the gospel proclamation as something not relevant in today’s cultural dialogue. We are so sure of the accuracy of our interpretation of the current reality that we think that the simple message of the gospel is too simple for the complex problems we’ve created. In our arrogance we belittle the power of the gospel and the way God works and we think we can overwrite the way He creates eternal life in a person’s soul: by gospel proclamation (Romans 10:17).

Solomon warns us: don’t assume you know how God is working through your sowing. Don’t underestimate the power God has built into the seed of the gospel. Just as the seed has the power of life to create a huge tree, the gospel also has the power to bear much fruit.

If the sower withholds the seed because he/she is afraid of the “wind”, or afraid of the “waste”, or afraid of the opposition, or of the reaction, then he/she withholds the potential of eternal life. God didn’t give us the knowledge or the understanding to even comprehend the future impact of what He can and will do through one gospel conversation. We just don’t know how God is working.

When the church detours from the message she needs to proclaim and starts proclaiming “other gospels” (cultural solutions to spiritual problems), she becomes unfaithful to her calling and denies the power of God. The Church needs to recognize that today’s problems are not cultural, not racial, not generational, not social – but spiritual. The solution is not to become the prophet of the gluey cultural narrative, but to sow the seed of the gospel that is God’s power for salvation. (Romans 1:16.) Each time the church backs down from sharing the gospel, she confesses that she doesn’t believe in the gospel.

God created the seed (the gospel). He also created the soil (the human heart). He knows the soil needs the seed and the seed needs the soil to bring fruit. It is not the sower’s job to decide which soil deserves the seed and which doesn’t. The sower was commissioned to sow.

Focus on what you had been commissioned to do and on what you have power to control.

Be a diligent sower. The job is to sow the seed not to observe and analyze the wind. Sowing is what you can control. Sow abundantly because we don’t know which seed will bring fruit. Sow in the morning and sow at the evening. Sow knowing that we can’t control the results. Abundant reaping only comes after abundant sowing.

In the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:4-8) Jesus told us that at minimum 75% of the sowing will be wasted. The effectiveness of gospel-sowing is very low. That’s why sowing needs to happen broadly.

The church in the Western World is at a turning point. She needs to decide if she still believes in the gospel or not. If not, she will stop being the Church and will be transformed into a powerless social institution.

Gain Christ

Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…

Philippians 3:7-8

Gain is something you earned, you worked for, you acquired or you inherited. Something that was given as a reward for your investment or hard work; or something that was given to you by birth (by the country or the family you were born into).

What kind of gains we have in life? Here are a few that are important to us all:

  • money we earned
  • position or place in our society we worked for
  • carrier we have struggled for
  • relationships we have invested in
  • family we have made so much sacrifices for
  • hard-earned recognition and reputation
  • cultural, national, racial identity
  • all we have acquired through our relationships, position and possession

In order to gain Christ and to know God – as Paul instructs us – all we have gained will need to be considered rubbish (waste, trash, useless). Think about that for a moment. Look through that list again. To gain the knowledge of Christ we need to be willing to give up any or all that’s on that list. Costly. And yet, too many Christians think that they can gain the knowledge of God without giving up anything. Too many believers want to know God without willing to suffer the pain of losses.

Personalizing Paul’s statement will make it even harder: “Whatever I have achieved in my carrier, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ…”, or “Regardless of what impacts it will have on my family, kids, parents, reputation, position, possessions, I will count all that as loss for the sake of Christ…”

The true knowledge of God is always costly, it won’t be ours without painful losses. We cannot know Christ without giving up and loosing things that are dear to us. 

What we invest our life, time, resources into will tell what we want to gain.

In our so many goals in life, we loose the ultimate goal: to gain Christ. The ultimate goal in life is not gaining more “stuff” but to gain more of Christ!

Something needs to go. What we give up will tell what we value. Either we are willing to loose all we have gained (the list and + above) or we have to give up the surpassing, excellent knowledge of Christ. Of course it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy all those things in the list above, but there are times when some or all on that list need to be given up so that we could gain Christ.

“He waits to be wanted.” “How tragic that we in this dark day had our seeking done for us by our teachers.” A.W. Tozer. That’s why Christians live in religious complexity and we don’t experience the simplicity found in Christ.

What are your losses that you gave up to gain Christ? If you don’t have a list yet, it worth starting it now. The gain of knowing Him is incomparably more valuable than all what you could acquire in life.

If we, as believers are pursuing gaining the same things this world is pursuing, then why do we expect the world to accept our truth? We are no different than the world when we pursue the same gains and are not willing to exchange those to gain the knowledge of Christ. Our willingness to lose the gains will prove the gospel.

If Christians would truly start knowing Him, this world would start changing.

Humanities Most Dangerous Ideas

How influential ideologies’ distorted view of man led to the death of millions and threatens to destroy our future.

“To celebrate God aright, one must fully understand and celebrate humanity itself.”
– D. Bonhoeffer

“Those who hold the material-energy, chance concept of reality… not only do not know the truth of the final reality, God, they do not know who Man is. Their concept of the final reality is what final reality is not. Since their concept of Man is mistaken, their concept of society and of law is mistaken, and they have no sufficient base for either society or law.”
Christian Manifesto, Francis Shaeffer

Ideas have consequences. 

Influential ideas of the 18th and 19th centuries shaped the story of the 20th century and continue to shape our world today. Some of these ideas already proved to be deadly, leading to countless wars, horrific tyrannies, unimaginable poverty and famine; and to the violent death of hundreds of millions. Yet once again, at the dawn of the 21st century, these ideas are evolving and merging into each other and becoming more and more popular, saturating not only the educational arena, but our whole world–even misleading many believers. Anyone who knows a bit of history can see that the trajectory of today’s narrative unavoidably will lead us to repeat the horror of the past century as we, once again embrace those ideologies that gave birth to such demonic evil. 

The core of these ideas is the axiom that “God is dead”. Once God is out of the equation we face some major challenges of which the most important is that we also need to redefine “who man is”. Since “God is dead” we will need to find a definition, an origin, a purpose, a structure and a destiny for mankind. If God does not define man’s existence then we need to recreate meaning and purpose if we don’t want to face an existential crisis. These seemingly harmless, first isolated ideas led to the deadliest story in human history causing unimaginable sufferings and injustices impacting our lives even today. Leaders, thinkers and activists of our age want to use these same ideas to cure the problems caused by these ideas. The question remains–how many times can we survive these deadly experiments? 

We should have learned by now that when we disregard God and turn away from the Biblical definition of man, from the sacred value of life and the guidance laid for us in the Bible; the results are always death, destruction, poverty, broken relationships, suffering and growing injustices. But since we “refused to love the truth and so be saved, God sends us a strong delusion, so that we may believe what is false” (2 Thess 2:10-11)

Below I will summarize the 5 most influential ideologies that led to the disastrous consequences that are shaping our culture today. I will give a brief summary of each ideology, their view of mankind and replace it with the Biblical view of man.

1. Utilitarianism 

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), Robert Owen (1771-1858 – father of utopian socialism). 

Main idea: utilitarianism teaches that the ultimate goal of life is to avoid pain and pursue happiness. The highest value is to pursue the common good and happiness of most men. The individual’s happiness and well-being can be sacrificed for the happiness of the community. What brings the most utility for the society will become the driving force and highest value even if it means we need to cause pain or harm for the individual. Harming the individual can be justified if through that we pursue a greater common good.

Main problem: Who is going to decide what is best for the whole community? Who selects who needs to be harmed for the well-being of the common good and how far can we go to cause harm to the individual in order to serve the common good? For example: Can we sacrifice the life of the individual for saving other lives? Who decides when this can be done? That’s what people did in the ancient times when they sacrificed man-children to the gods to claim protection and well-being for the community. This kind of thinking sees the individual only as a tool (utility) to serve the good of the society. The society, the community becomes the most important entity. But then this raises another question: which community/society/nation/ethnicity’s happiness should be served if there is a conflict between them? If the individual is stripped away from his/her god-given dignity and becomes nothing but a means to serve the common good, then the leaders and power players in the society can decide his/her value and place in society. 

Utilitarian view of man: man exists to serve the common good. 

Biblical view of man: God created man for his image, he didn’t create societies to be his image-bearer. Christ died for the individual, not for the community or nation. Man is eternal, societies, communities and nations are not. That’s why God forbade the sacrifice of man as it was a custom to save the community, get a favor from the gods in the ancient world. He hated that practice, because he saw the value of the individual over the community.

2. Perspectivism and nihilism

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). 

Main idea of perspectivism: Nietzsche claimed that the death of God would eventually lead to the loss of any universal perspective on things and any coherent sense of objective truth. Nietzsche rejected the idea of objective reality, arguing that knowledge is relative to various fluid perspectives or interests. This leads to constant reassessment of rules (i.e., those of philosophy, the scientific method, etc.) according to the circumstances of individual perspectives. There are no objective facts, truth is separated from any particular vantage point, and so there are no ethical absolutes. 

Main idea of nihilism: When we find out that the world does not possess objective value, meaning or purpose (since God is dead) we find ourselves in a crisis. Nihilism is emptying the world and humanity from its inherent meaning, purpose, truth and essential value. Life has no purpose, no meaning, no origin and no destiny. Therefore, everything that makes you happy is permissible. 

Main problem:  if there are no objective values by which we need to govern our lives and if there is no origin and purpose of mankind then nothing holds us back to pursue maximum power and well-being for ourselves since this short moment (called life on earth) is the only moment we can possess anything. This idea justifies and leads to totalitarianism, when a group of people grab power over others. Also, if there is no meaning, purpose and value-systems that govern us, then we have every right to do and live as we wish since everything leads to nothing (nihilism) and what remains is mere momentary pleasure. Denying the origin, the purpose and the meaning of life leads to self-destruction (i.e. addiction, broken relationships, depression, suicide, etc.). The emptiness caused by this nihilistic self-destruction should prove to us that we have detoured from life’s original purpose and meaning. 

Perspectivism’ and nihilism’ view of man: man is purposeless without any inherent value, living in an empty world where everything is relative and he/she is the creator of his/her own values and reality. Man’s only purpose is to pursue momentary joy.

Biblical view of man: God created man with a purpose, we have an origin and a destiny; we have inherent value and God gave us objective truth to guide our life.

3. Darwinism 

Charles Darwin (1809-1882) 

Main idea: Darwinian theory is a theory of biological evolution stating that all species of organisms arise and develop through the natural selection of small, inherited variations that increase the individual’s ability to compete, survive, and reproduce. It is the survival of the fittest. 

Main problem: Darwinian theory denies the biological uniqueness of mankind and asserted that human beings were but one of many species of animals. This view of mankind reduces us to nothing more than the production of an unintelligent, random, purposeless, cruel process and makes us no more than a biological being without moral character, purpose, origin, designer or destiny. We come from nothing, are going to nothing, yet we randomly find ourselves in the middle of these two “nothings”. This view of life justifies and necessitates the survival of the stronger and the murder of the weaker. When humans are viewed as nothing else but a complex biological mass, then the more powerful have every right to do anything with the weaker since the only way the evolutionary process can continue is if the stronger one survives. The weaker have no right for life as their life undermines the evolutionary process–which is supposed to serve the survival of life. So the very existence of the weak is an attack on the future. It is the mandate of the stronger one to eliminate the weaker one; not doing so will not serve the survival of life. This evil idea led to eugenics (arrange reproduction within a human population to increase the occurrence of inheritable characteristics regarded as desirable) and to death camps.

Darwinian view of man: Mankind is simply a biological being produced by a random, unintelligent material process and as such exists without inherent value and moral law; is mandated to survive even at the cost of violating his/her own conscience.

Biblical view of man: Man was created as God’s image-bearer; does not only have a body, but a soul (mind) and a spirit as well. Man is more than just a sum of cells. God gave mankind moral laws to guide them (put it in their heart, revealed it in nature and in the Bible).

4. Marxism

Karl Marx (1818-1883); Friedrich Engels (1820-1895). 

Main idea: marxism is a materialist interpretation of human history. (Materialism means denying God’s existence and putting the highest importance on material possessions. It equals our value with our material possession/power.) Marxism views human history as a war between classes, between those who have and those who do not have material possessions and/or power. The ultimate value of man in marxism is power and material possession. Everything in human history is centered around the fight for material possession. Those who possess material goods, possess power. Societies are structured based on material/economical power and possessions. Those who have material possessions and power are the oppressors and those who do not have, are the oppressed–the latter are simply considered the victims of the oppressing systems. Everything in marxism is simplified to a zero-sum conflict between oppressors and oppressed. Oppression is only understood systematically–that’s why  ‘victimized’ individuals can’t do anything to change their lives until the system is changed. All problems in society are caused by those who possess material resources and power, therefore the solution to the problem is to violently take away these material possessions and power from those who have them. All means are justified in this war: rioting, looting, killing. In the marxist view, societies are organized by classes. Each member of the society is part of a class based on their economic power / possession or based on any artificial categories viewed as power-holders or oppressor (for example: religion, race, family status, gender, sexual orientation, etc.). If you are born into a certain class, you can’t do anything about changing your status: you are either a member of a class that has intolerable privileges or a member of a class that suffers incredible oppression. In this ideology, man is merely an ‘avatar’ of the class he/she belongs to; the individuals’ personal performance, character, behavior, action does not matter. Humanity’s problems in marxism are always outside of the individual–the broken, unjust system or someone else is responsible for the individual’s problems, actions and behavior. The individual can’t do anything about changing his/her problems, actions or behavior. The individual is only a victim of circumstances or oppressive systems, all his/her faulty behavior (crime, immorality, etc.) is only viewed as a result of the oppressive system. Because of that the only solution for changing the individual’s life is changing the system.

Main problem: the value of man does not originate from his/her material possessions or power. Marxism justifies all means for acquiring material goods and power. This philosophy forces people into classes and degrades them into being only a representative of their class. The individual doesn’t carry any inherent value, as this person is nothing more than a prototype of his/her class. A social class is identified by its power. Marxism denies the individual’s responsibility and power over his/her life; views sin as a reality in the system, not in the individual. Because the individual is not sinful, his/her action needs to be evaluated by the class that he/she belongs to. Any sin committed by the individual can be redeemed and justified if the class approves it (i.e. murder of someone who is in another class, theft from the “oppressors”, etc.). If an individual is a member of the “oppressor” class, he/she is automatically viewed as immoral and sinful and needs to pay for his/her sins. If an individual is a member of an “oppressed” class, he/she is viewed as a victim, so his/her misbehavior or even criminal action can be justified and that individual cannot be held accountable for it. Marxism views that the problem of the individual is not within himself, but in the system. Therefore the individual cannot do anything to make his/her life better. The only option to bring change to the individual’s life is to destroy the system (built by the “oppressors”) by all means. Those who are in the “oppressed” class are always good and their every action can be justified (even murder, concentration camp, etc.). Those who are in the “oppressor” class are always bad and every action against them is justifiable. The marxists solution to the problem is to take away from  those who have and give it to those who don’t have. They redefine equality. Equality for them is the equality of the outcome: equal possession and power. But the only way to create such equality is if we treat people unequally. Marxism denies the individual’s performance, talent and hard work as they take away from those who achieve anything more than those who are less talented and less dedicated. Marxism always keeps people in poverty as they will not be motivated, skilled and allowed to better themselves or to create a better life for themselves. Mankind already experimented with this philosophy for 100 years and it led to nothing but poverty, dictatorship, stripping people away from their freedom, censorship and to the violent death of approximately 150 million people. (Marxism killed more people in one day than the Crusades in 100 years – said Alexander Solzhenitsyn.)

Marxist view of man: Humans are no more than producers and consumers of material goods. All that matters is the possession and power you have, as that gives you your identity in society. Humans have no moral obligation when pursuing power to meet his/her material needs; man does not have individual responsibility for his/her life.

Biblical view of man:  Man is more than economic power; each person is responsible to better his/her life and others; every man is sinful regardless of the class they belong to; man is not a representative of a class, but an individual who reflects God’s image.

5. Freudianism

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). 

Main idea: Freud redefined human nature and consciousness. Sex drives everything, sex makes the world go around. Any sexual need not satisfied will ultimately manifest itself in some deep psychological eccentricity, neurosis or emotional disorder, even psychosis. Freud saw self-control as a mental illness, and he viewed all human nature as explainable strictly in terms of sexuality and emotions. He called religion the universal obsessional neurosis and a mass delusion; he saw free will as yet another delusion, and he viewed the family as a negative, authoritarian institution. Freud thought that every negative attribute of any person was due to some repressed memory of something horrible, usually of a sexual nature, that had happened to that person. He discovered that people could easily be made to remember things that had never even occurred.

Main problem: Freudianism says that guilt and shame are destructive, the very idea of sin is destructive; all desires must be fully and completely satisfied. There is nothing wrong with satiating lust, even gluttonous lust needs full satisfaction. The truth is that we are more than the sum of and the slave of our sexual desires. Living out our desires without any restraint leads to more problems than it solves (broken relationships, health problems, addiction, etc.). There are moral, relational and social consequences for our personal desires. Desires need to be controlled and guided. Some desires are destructive. A society where people live out their desires becomes an unsafe place. People who live out desires without an outside objective guidance will cause harm to themselves and others. The outside objective guidelines (what the Bible gives us about how to live out our desires) are critical for our future happiness, for our physical, relational and mental health.

Freudian view of man: mankind is nothing more than the sum of their sexual and other kinds of desires, and all their desires should be lived out without any control.

Biblical view of man: as God’s image-bearer mankind is more than the sum of their desires; power and responsibility is given to mankind to guide their desires to serve their best interest and future.

God’s View of Man

Opposite to these ideologies, the Bible gives a clear definition of man: Fallen Image.

“In the beginning, God…” (Genesis 1:1). God’s definition of mankind starts here: “in the beginning, God”. The definition of humanity starts with God. We can’t understand man outside of the realm of God. It says that man had a beginning, a Creator. Humanity’s story didn’t start with nothing–it came from somewhere, from Someone. 

Man is an image-bearer. There is nothing else in the universe that carries God’s image. Man is not equal with God, just as an image is not equal with the one the image is made of. The image makes the original recognizable. If we look at mankind we should recognize God. 

When we don’t respect God’s image, we don’t respect God himself.

Man is an IMAGE

Being created in God’s image means we can be in a RELATIONSHIP and we have a RESPONSIBILITY. We have the ability to be in a relationship with our Creator and we have a responsibility to carry out a task to reflect our Creator. God gave us special skills to live as image bearers.

  1. Ability to think. We know that animals are thinking, too. But the huge difference is that we are able to ask questions about what we think about. Our ability to intelligently ask questions and process our thoughts is a way to reflect God. We have a mind that is unique to our image-bearer identity. What we do with it is crucial in reflecting who God created us to be.
  2. Ability to talk. God created the world with his words. Words have power. God gave the power of words to mankind. Through our words we have the power to reflect God.
  3. Ability to create. God is a creator. He is creative. He loves beauty. Nature proves both. We have the skills and the means to create beauty. Our work, our discoveries, our creations prove that we are God’s image-bearers.
  4. Ability to make decisions. As God’s image-bearers we have the ability, the freedom and the responsibility to make decisions. We are not bound by our instinct. We are moral creatures. Our morality and freedom to choose the right thing reflects God. It’s amazing how much freedom God gave us, but freedom comes with huge responsibilities. 

Any system, ideology, society, regime that does not respect man as God’s image-bearer will manifest itself in controlling man’s ability to think (freedom of opinion), to talk (freedom of speech), to create (freedom of enterprise) and to make decisions. 

Man is FALLEN

The other reality we learn about man is that he has fallen. The image is broken. Sin is a very personal reality for every single individual. Sin separates each and every individual from God and makes each of us responsible for our actions. No one else can be blamed for our faults and misbehavior other than ourselves. Systems are not causing our personal sinful behaviors. Our sinful nature causes us to create broken systems. Because of that, the ultimate solution is not reparation of systems, but the recreation of the condition of the human heart. That’s what Jesus came to do. 

The revolution that needs to happen is the revolution of the heart.

Conclusion:

When we discredit how God defines mankind in the Bible the consequences are dire. People will think that they set the rules of life–they assume that they can conquer something they have not created. They think they can decide who can be born, who can live and how long they should live. Such a messed-up, false way of thinking leads to ideas and ethical distortedness that manifests itself today in many ways. These twisted, evil ideologies created a society where–as Albert Camus writes “crime puts on the apparel of innocence, through a curious reversal peculiar to our age, it is innocence that is called on to justify itself”. Mankind has an undeniable and unalienable value originated in God’s creation. God’s goal in history is to pursue the eternal well-being of mankind. When we need to defend human life, dignity, property, freedom, free speech and freedom of assembly then certainly we have arrived at an age that the Bible calls the last days: “in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…” 2Tim 3:1-5.

Three messages from God’s throne-room to our divided, broken world.

Read: Revelation 14:6-13

From the heavenly scene (God’s throne room) God sends three heavenly messengers (angels) to proclaim His three heavenly messages to Earth. His act proves that:

  • God has a message to the broken world and He is not indifferent about earthly matters. He has something to say about what is happening today and how to fix it.
  • Heaven sets the standards for our life on earth. Earthly standards originate from heavenly authority and can’t be ignored without consequences.
  • Heaven has the final words on what happens on Earth. Our life, our history, our values and our future are not independent from our origin (creation).
  • We are known, observed and judged by Heaven.
  • Our temporary life on Earth has eternal consequences.

Here are God’s three messages:

  1. From God’s throne-room comes God’s invitation. The first angel’s message is a heavenly invitation: the Eternal Gospel. God’s first message from His throne to mankind on Earth is His eternal good news; its His invitation into a fellowship with Him. The essence of the gospel summarized by the angel is this:
    • Fear God” – honor Him with your faith, live according to His law;
    • worship him” – place Him on the throne of your heart just as He is on the throne of Heaven, reject the idols of this world;
    • He made heaven and earth” – acknowledge Him as the creator of everything, including you; honor him as the source of all you see, breath, eat, touch, observe, enjoy, sense and love.
    • “The hour of his judgment has come” – accept that He rules, He sets standards and holds all of us accountable.
  2. From God’s throne-room comes God’s worldview. The second angel’s message is exposing our current reality: sin destroyed our world. The heavenly message continues with revealing the reality of our world: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.” Sin destroyed our world. Moral decline always leads to the destruction of societies. God’s second message exposes the world we live in: it is corrupt, broken, fallen (past) and as is it can’t be redeemed. He warns us not to put our hope in the world we live in, not to live by its rules, values and standards, because those rules, values and standards led to it’s falling. He warns us not to buy into its narrative or follow its leaders. But the ‘eternal gospel’ is still proclaimed to us who live in this fallen reality, because although our culture, country, nation, world might be fallen, but we can be rescued and redeemed from it, if we obey to the first angelic message and accept the invitation of the Eternal Gospel to join the multitude of worshipers in God’s throne-room. Jesus died to rescue us, not to rescue our societies or nations or cultures. Corruption of nations, cultures and societies happened because of the corruption of man. The only hope for any social change if mankind is rescued from their own corruption by accepting God’s eternal gospel to reunite with him in his throne-room as his worshipers and return to the original purpose of our creation. If we do not obey God’s first invitation then any attempt to reform societies will remain futile. Mankind were created by God to be His image-bearers. Social structures were constructed by man. The soul of man is eternal. Countries and nations are not. He died to redeem the first, not the latter. God can repair and redeem man through his eternal gospel and once we are redeemed then we can start working on fixing of what we’ve created and messed up: our relationships, societies, nations and cultures. It wont work the other way around. That’s why proclaiming the eternal gospel is preeminent and is the first message from Heaven. It precedes anything else, because by it everything else can be fixed and without it everything remains broken and fallen. We can be rescued from our fallen world, but can’t be rescued by it – so don’t put your hope in your culture, nation, country or politician to fix what only God can fix and need to fix first and foremost: mankind’s corrupt nature.
  3. From God’s throne-room comes God’s warning. The third angel’s message is revealing our future reality: our choice will have eternal consequences. Ignoring God’s invitation will have eternal consequences. God’s judgement is as real as God’s invitation. Eternal punishment is a brutal reality. God’s warning is not a threat-tactic, its a loving message. Anyone we love the most we want to warn them of the consequences of their wrong choices. Anyone we don’t care about or we don’t like, we just let them suffer from the consequences of their bad decisions. Warning comes with conflict and its viewed as being judgmental. The 3rd angel’s message is that hell is real and brutal, ignoring God’s invitation will lead you there. Don’t believe the lie that it does not matter what you believe in, who you worship and how you live. Your choices have eternal consequences. The devil (who hates us) wants to hide, belittle or ridicule the reality of hell. He wants to keep us in the delusion and deception that we can just live our life as we want and there will be no consequences.

All three messages from Heaven are loving messages: an invitation, a revealing of reality and a warning. Anyone who shows us the reality and gives us a way of rescue from our destructive present and painful future can only be a loving person.

This heavenly message from God’s throne ends with two confirmations to believers from the voice of the Spirit:

  • keep the faith and persevere because difficulties and persecutions are coming; be prepared because life will become harder for those who follow Jesus;
  • reward awaiting for Christ-followers in heaven: ‘blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, their deeds follow them’. Our eternal future is much different than what’s described in the 3rd angel’s message. Our deeds follow us to Heaven. They do not lead us to heaven. They don’t open the door for us – Christ did that in Revelation 4:1.

There are two eternal realities. Our choices have eternal significances. God’s loving message to our fallen world is to accept his invitation to His throne-room!

A miraculous event 35 years ago impacts lives today

God’s silence doesn’t mean he is not listening, he is indifferent or passive. Many of His great stories are found out decades or sometime centuries later. Think about Ruth and Naomi. They went through famine, grief and losses while God remained silent. Matter fact, God is silent throughout their whole story. Ruth has not witnessed the complete unfolding of her story. She only saw the first fruit of it. She had no idea that she became the great-grandmother of King David and an ancestor of our Lord Jesus.

Sometimes the Lord allows us to find out decades later how He has worked through mysterious moments. But most of his work is revealed throughout generations. And one day, He will unfold to us all his marvelous works.

On August 15th, 1985 we’ve witnessed something unforgettable. It was an evidence of God’s love and power and it forever confirmed to our soul that He listens to prayer. Remember this was during communism and we’ve lived behind the Iron Curtain.

At that moment there were about 15 of us involved in the ministry of Cru in Hungary. We were together in a camp where we’ve studied the Bible. On the final night, we came together to pray for the entire night. We’ve prayed for God to tear down the ‘Spiritual Iron Curtain’ around people’s heart. We’ve spent the whole night in prayer.

We were praying through Acts 4:23-31. It seemed appropriate for us to pray what the first century believers prayed when Peter and John were persecuted as we had been intimidated by the communist police when they’ve arrested me for sharing my faith and searched our home for Christian literature. We were praying through Acts 4:31:

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”

Immediately, around 5:00 a.m., just as we were praying this passage, the whole town shook. It felt like a giant train ran just beneath our feet. It was one of the largest earthquake in the history of Hungary, registering 5.2 on the Richter scale. No one was hurt.

We don’t think the timing of the earthquake was coincidental – hitting just as we finished praying through the Acts 4 passage. When the earthquake occurred, we could not have imagined what would happen next. We had absolutely no idea of the political and spiritual earthquakes that God was preparing to bring: the fall of communism and the birth of Youth at the Threshold of Life through which so many students have heard the gospel in 62 countries. (More details can be found in the book we co-authored, titled: “The Outrageous Promise”.)

Exactly 35 years later this month we got an email telling us this earthquake story from a personal viewpoint. A now middle-aged man described what has happened to him on that morning: “As a teenager I lived a terrible life. I didn’t care about this whole ‘Jesus tale’. I just wanted to party all night. I’ve lived in an apartment complex. I woke up at early dawn because the whole ground shook beneath my bed. The next moment a vase fell on my head. Everyone was running to the street, but I was laying on my bed and my head badly hurt. At that moment I felt that I had been prayed for, matter fact, I felt that I had been prayed for a long time. But this moment was necessary for me to wake up from my deadly dream of pursuing my sinful life. After that earthquake I gave my life to Jesus. God has blessed me with a beautiful family and I’m elder in our church. I want thank now to those young people who prayed for me 35 years ago.”

His silence in our sufferings should not make us hopeless. We can’t comprehend what is coming and how he is working.

Sometime He unfolds the edge of the curtain so we could peek in to and see a small part of his beautiful work. This should fill us with praise.

Faith in a prayer-hearing God should lead to bold proclamation of the Word of God (see Acts 4:31).

The Church is in Debt – Owes the world!

We are puzzled as we observe the world stumble. In a short few months we’ve witnessed a global pandemic, major economic difficulties, political wars, murder of George Flyod and the riots that follow, violence, racism and the list could go on. These crisis revealed the underlying, fundamental erosion of values and trust that holds societies together. It also revealed and accelerated the sobering reality of a shrinking, less and less impactful, often irrelevant and inwardly focused church whose narrative and focus is mixed and confusing.

The Church owes the world.

Paul writes in Romans 1:14-16 “I am under obligation (in debt) both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel… I am not ashamed of the gospel.”

Paul is under obligation – meaning in the original language: he is in debt. He owes the world with something that was given to him from God to pass on: the gospel. Paul is under legal demand to pass on something that is not his to keep. The gospel is not ours to keep. This obligation made Paul eager and not ashamed.

The Church is also under legal obligation, under a forceful demand from God. We have something that was not given to us to keep, but to pass on. We possess something that is not ours. God intended to give the gospel to the world. This obligation should make us eager and not ashamed to proclaim the simple message of eternal hope and eternal justice through Christ.

‘Paying our debt to the world’, meaning eagerly and without shame proclaiming the gospel of Christ (Romans 1:15-16) in a gracious, clear, wise (Col 4:5-6) and bold (Eph 6:19) way is not the central focus and message of the Church anymore. The Church is occupied with and focusing on so many other things. Evangelism is hardly mentioned these days. There are major mission conferences, initiatives and strategies without mentioning of or equipping for gospel-proclamation. No wonder the Church is confused, shrinking, irrelevant, scattered and many of her members are not envisioned nor equipped for sharing the gospel.

The Church is not obligated to solve all the problems of the world. Jesus, the Apostles, Paul and the early church did not solve most of the political, social and economical problems of their age. Of course, we need to heal and help as representatives of Christ as much as we possible. But the Church’s core obligation, the reason we are left on this earth, the one thing we won’t be able to do in Heaven: is to proclaim the message of eternal hope and justice – the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Perhaps, if we, as the Church, would focus on envisioning and equipping believers on our core obligation to pass on the gospel to those God intended to give it, we would be less confused, less disturbed, less disoriented and more fruitful, satisfied, effective and joyful.

Born in pain, lived in honor

1 Chronicles 4:9–10 (ESV): Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.

These two verses are hidden in lengthy lists of genealogies revealing insights of a life lived beyond it’s projected limitations. It’s a short memory of someone who changed the trajectory of how life is and pursued of how life ought to be. Most times we hear these verses quoted to support that we can pray for personal gains. But these verses are not about gains; they are about growth. They are about living beyond the limitations of our past. Jabez lived a life that elevated him from the list of names and made him memorable thousands of years later.

A name carried meaning and granted identity. Jabez’s was pain, sorrow, grief. Not a good start in life. His mother wanted him to remember the pain his life caused. Every moment when someone called him by his name, he was reminded of who he is: someone whose existence caused pain, grief and sorrow.

Yet, he journeyed from pain to honor. He became more honorable than his brothers. He left behind the limitations of his beginning. The identity imposed on him (“born in pain, causing sorrow”) didn’t enslave him.

His prayer reveals his determination.

  • “Enlarge my border” is a cry for taking him beyond his potential, beyond his inherited opportunities, beyond his comfort zone and abilities. Even beyond the imaginable. That is a prayer of growth. It’s a desire to grow beyond his limitations, comfort and control. Expanded borders come with scary exploration, risky endeavors and stretching resources. Growth or expansion is always costly. It’s fearful, tiring, risky and expensive. It requires enormous capacity of learning, flexibility and adoptability. When you go to new territories, you are loosing control of many things you have relied on before. Growth comes with a price. The higher the price tag, the more valuable the growth is. When you pray for growth, make sure that you are willing to pay for it, too.
  • “Bless me… and your hand be with me.” He prayed for God’s guidance, protection and provision as he embarked to enlarge his borders. Growth, expansion, exploration of new territories is so hard, so fearful, so risky, so costly that if God’s protective and providing hands are not with us, we are doomed for failure. As we embark in the journey of expanding our own ‘borders’ we’ll need nothing more than God’s guidance, provision and protection.

A life that’s worth living, that becomes impactful and memorable (like Jabez’s) is a life that is not stuck in the curse of the past, but with a God-trusting heart embarks into the unknown future. God granted Jabez such a life.

Jabez was born in pain and lived in honor. He didn’t take the rotten path of self-pity over his unfortunate arrival to this Earth. But he has embarked the risky, costly, yet more glorious path of growth.

America, Are You Ready To Receive Missionaries?

Part I.

Gábor & Edina in Budapest, Hungary

“What I am suffering for you, which is your glory.” Eph 3:13b

“For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you…” Col 2:1

“Why a Hungarian missionary had to come to America teaching us things we’ve never heard in our church?” – was a revealing question we’ve received a few months ago from a student who took part in our summer mission in Kansas City. 

After a 5-year-long struggle with the Lord’s louder and louder calling, finally we were willing to leave everything we were part of in ministry for 30+ years; were willing to leave all of our friends, our lovely city, elderly parents, our house and our church we’ve helped to plant. We had other dreams after working so hard for decades to build the influence, the relationships and the impact we had in our home country, than making this not-understood, questioned, life-changing and unfathomably demanding move. Leaving behind the place where we saw miracles – like the collapse of communism that we have so fervently prayed for -, where we’ve experienced God moving in so many ways and where we’ve witnessed thousands of people’s lives being changed, was unimaginable for us. But at age 50, the Lord with strong hands moved us to become missionaries to a foreign nation; to a place where we’ve never intended to live: The United States of America. After turning over our leadership responsibilities of the ministry in our home country, we’ve arrived to the U.S. as missionaries in June 2017.

You just don’t have the option not to go where He sends.

Arriving to an empty home with two adult children and with our youngest who was just about to start high school was a dreadful experience. Our two adult children were with us for just a short period of time before they headed back to continue their studies and life in different parts of Europe. Not exactly how we have imagined to start our 50s. Our life became a reflection of our home: empty. Empty from old friendships, empty from being known, empty of the familiar, empty of security, empty of influence and empty of position. Empty – a word sounded familiar from Paul’s letter to the Philippians: “emptied himself” [referring to Jesus, 2:7].

The calling was loud and the need is burdensome. The mass exodus from the U.S. churches [2.5 million leave the church each year]; the decline of the American church [80 percent of the churches are declining and the rest are mainly growing by adding people from other churches]; the rapid secularization of the whole culture, especially the young Americans, massively changes not only the U.S. culture, but impacts the future of global mission as well.

In the past 2-3 decades, while having great Bible-studies in homes and churches, while sending people on mission-trips, while doing all the wonderful things , the U.S. became the 4th largest unchurched nation in the World and the 3rd nation with the largest number of unreached people groups living inside its borders. How did this happen? And more importantly, what needs to be done to change this? These will be discussed in later posts.

The American church was instrumental in accelerating the global mission and taking the gospel to the ends of the Earth. American missionaries came to our country under communism bringing the gospel to us and to disciple us. But now, something is changing. As masses of American Christians are becoming more and more liberal and indifferent toward mission, believers from other nations are standing up for the truth correcting parts of the American church. [For example: traditional vs. gay marriage vote at United Methodist General Conference.]

We grew up in Eastern Europe, under communism and moved to the U.S. to help change the paradigm of how we do church, to equip believers to live missionally, to make a wake-up call, to mobilize believers to be equipped to live as ambassadors for Christ and to help multiply vital, transformative faith communities that reach every segment of the society. Millions of believers need to wake up to their reality that they are the recipients of the immeasurable grace and power of the Almighty God, that they are the citizens of the Heavenly Kingdom and that these realities demand changes in the way they live now. If millions of believers are not envisioned, empowered and equipped to start living like Ambassadors for Christ, then very soon America will be the bastion of hedonistic secularism.

Moving here we didn’t know if America was ready to receive missionaries or not. Will those leaders, pastors, churches who always viewed and positioned themselves as the ones who give, who send, who train, who teach, who lead, who tell, be ready to receive, to listen, to hear, to follow and to change? Is the church in America ready to listen, have a teachable heart, and is willing to change? To be on the receiving end requires a different kind of mindset and attitude. We know this from the 32 years of experience being on the receiving end of mission.

It quickly became obvious to us that the U.S. does not have the experience of receiving missionaries. America was and is great in sending missionaries, creating infrastructure and support-systems around it. But there is almost nothing about receiving missionaries: no support system, or infrastructure, or experience.

Our journey to America as missionaries, pioneering and leading in this super complex, “hard-soil” mission-field is “burdensome beyond our strength” [2Cor 1:8]. Paul writes to the Ephesians that his suffering is for their glory – it’s for their well-being, for their advancement, for their honor, for their growth (3:13b). Paul wanted the churches know that the advancement of God’s Kingdom comes with a price, a price that is paid by others. Paul paid the price and the Ephesians (3:13b), the Colossians (2:1) and the Corinthians benefited from it (2Cor 1:8).

In the next couple of months we’ll share moments of this pioneering journey. Moments of beginning, moments of success, moments of progress, moments of personal pain, moments of loneliness and moments of joy. Eventually these moments will come together into a story.

Is America ready to receive missionaries? We are on the journey figuring this out.

Utilitarian Christianity

(Image source: Adobe Stock, Licensed)

Utilitarianism tempts us to sit in the judgment seat over God. Could it be that as we pursue sophisticated efficiency and numbers (the two pillars of utilitarianism) we miss to discover the heart of God?

Today’s Christian thinking is deeply saturated with and trapped by utilitarianism. We’ve adopted our society’s moral normative of maximizing happiness and good (money, time, resources, opportunities) for the greatest number of people. Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill’s moral code completely saturated our thinking and our decision-making process. Today churches, mission organizations and donors widely operate based on utilitarian principles as they seek how to maximize every invested dollar with other resources and turn them into the most number of saved souls. Utilitarianism created a deformed version of Christianity where EFFICIENCY and NUMBERS are the two idols by which the will of God is decided and by which stewardship is measured. Most times – out of good intention – decision-making processes in the churches and missions are only considering utilitarian aspects: where can we get the greatest return for our investment and resources? (Efficiency to maximize results is the mantra of our whole society.) And at many cases that could be the wise and good thing to pursue.

The Word of God encourages us to maximize our God-given resources as good stewards (see Mt 25:14-30 – The Parable of the Talents). However, this “maximizing” doesn’t always carry the utilitarian meaning of the word – which is maximizing the resources to benefit the greatest number of people. As we’ll see below, simply following utilitarian aspects in our decision-making processes might lead us far away from the heart of God.

In the following two stories from the life of Jesus we can observe how he addresses that spending money and time (two very valuable assets) should NOT only be decided by simple utilitarian aspects.

“Wasting” money – Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8

These stories in the Gospels are recording the anointing of Jesus. Mary poured a very expensive ointment on Jesus. The cost of that in today’s money is app. $40,000. The disciples – being (seemingly) so concerned for the well-being of the poor – immediately outraged and scolded Mary. They’ve used a utilitarian argument: “this resource could have been used much better to benefit the many most needy”. With this argument they’ve placed themselves to a morally superior position and subtly they’ve judged Jesus who allowed and supported such waste of a potentially valuable resource. (See how pure utilitarianism can place us in the judgment seat even over God.) They have a strong moral argument: a lot of people for a long time could be fed from this money that was just wasted.

Mary was isolated, bullied, judged, misunderstood and misrepresented for her costly, loving sacrifice just because it didn’t fit in the disciples’ utilitarian thinking. There are times when our obedience and sacrifice doesn’t make sense and it comes with a cost.

The disciples were very much like us: they knew how someone else should spend her money. They made moral judgement on her sacrifice. It was not their money, they didn’t work for it, it was not given to them to make a decision about it, yet they were bold enough to place themselves in the judgment seat just because it didn’t fit into their utilitarian “superior morality”.

Jesus not only rebukes them and corrects their false thinking, but makes a promise to Mary as well: “wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her”.

She was the only person who has captured the moment and understood what will happen to Jesus. She was the only person who were so intimate and close to the heart of Jesus that she understood what she needs to prepare Jesus for. It’s ultimately more important to prepare Jesus for his saving death than to feed the poor.

But simple utilitarianism failed to understand the heart of God and to reveal such secret. Simply listing pros and cons and prioritizing needs do not always lead us to the heart of God. God’s heart can be only discovered in the intimate solitude by someone whose heart is silenced and is deeply connected to Jesus.

The number one question is not what benefits the most, but what glorifies God.

What is the will of God and how can I express my love for him the best way? – are more important questions and motivations than any utilitarian aspect.

We constantly fall back to rely on our default utilitarian decision-making process. Because to discover the will of God requires more than a simple list of pros and cons. It requires solitude, silence, humility and obedience at all cost. All these demands – as Henri Nouwen writes – “daring to stand in the presence of God”. We are afraid to do that, because probably it would demand too much to change in our life, in our churches and in our mission.

“Wasting” time – Luke 10:38-42

In this passage above we find Mary again now wasting her time at the feet of Jesus INSTEAD of doing something that benefits everybody in the community: helping Martha to serve the food. What Martha did benefited the maximum number of people: she fed the whole group. What Mary did – listening to Jesus – benefited only one person: herself.

Martha complained that Mary has not maximized her time for the benefit of others. She was not serving, not producing, was not creating tangible, measurable results for the community (at this case, food). We are also much like Martha, we are good in knowing how others should spend their time, right?

Jesus is rebuking Martha saying that sometime there are better ways to spend time than only meeting the needs of others and chasing tangible, measurable results. The “good portion” that Mary has chosen is solitude, is listening to Jesus, “which will not be taken away from her”. Our ministry, our services and our activities can be taken away. What Jesus did for the one, Mary, was better, then what Martha did for the whole group.

When we have moved to the U.S. many people told us that we are wasting our talents, our opportunities, our resources, we are putting unnecessary burdens on our kids and family, and that we could have been much better used, if we would have stayed where we were. We had the relational network, we had the language, we had the experience, we had the reputation, we had an established ministry, we had access, we had the knowledge and the know-how. Many people knew better how we should spend our time, life and resources.

Our decision was born from spending years in solitude and silence before the Lord. We knew we had to do the seemingly irrational, non-utilitarian sacrifice to leave our homeland. As Mary was willing to “waste” what she owned, we knew God wanted us to do the same and bare the misunderstanding, the misrepresentation, the disappointment and the anger of many.

If we don’t want to fall into the trap of utilitarianism, than we need to dare to stand in the presence of God and bare the consequences of it.

Living in The Age of Decay

Apples in various states of decay isolated on white
(Source: Adobe Stock licensed picture)

The past 100 years we’ve experienced and continue to experience the decay of cultures and empires in a faster and larger scale than ever before in human history. 100 years ago the Austro-Hungarian empire collapsed, then Germany, Great-Britain and Russia (Soviet-union) lost its hegemony. After WWII the U.S. aspired to become the new “Rome”, but that role is greatly challenged by new empires arising in Asia. We witness the stumbling of the EU and the power-struggle between the U.S. and China. Conflicts of interest and crises are popping up daily everywhere.

Sir John Glubb in his essay, the “Fate of Empires” identifies 6 stages of the rise and fall of great nations. The final stage before a nation collapses is “The Age of Decadence”. The Age of Decadence is marked by materialism, consumers who become a burden on the state, extreme display of wealth, loss of sense of duty, a weakening of religion, massive disparity between rich and poor, obsession with sex, the debasement of the currency, overextended military and the worship of sport-idols and celebrities.

Jesus has promised that we will witness the intensity of signs of decay as we get closer to His second coming. In Mark 13:3-13 He warns us that we will experience moral instability by being exposed to ongoing lies (“false teachers will come”), political instability by seeing wars and hearing rumors of wars, environmental instability by seeing increasing number of natural disasters (“earthquakes”), economic instability (“famine”) and animosity against Christians (“they will deliver you over…“you will be hated by all”, “brother will deliver brother over to death and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to them…”).

Jesus describes the decay of environment, of nations, of cultures, of communities and of families as something that is a natural outcome of the future. The way He sees the natural flow where humanity is heading is a complete decay and disaster. To him it’s like 2 + 2 equals 4. He sees that our sinful, selfish nature creates sinful, selfish cultures and sinful, selfish cultures conflict with each other and consume and destroy things around them. He has not promised to stop the process of decay, yet He clearly states that there is hope to live life through this with a great prospect of a different personal outcome.

Jesus gave 2 commands and 1 promise of how we should live in The Age of Decay. These commands are for our protection and preparation. If we don’t follow these commands, we will be consumed by the decay of our culture.

The Command to See.

“See that no one leads you astray.” Mk 13:5b, says Jesus and repeats that in 13:9 as he says “be on your guard”. Basically he is using the same greek word: ‘blepo’ which means: ‘see, watch’. The only way you can protect and guard yourself if you have the skill to ‘see’. If you don’t ‘see’, then you are unprotected, defenseless, naked and unguarded. Your sight, your vision on the truth is your #1 skill to protect yourself. That’s why Jesus warns us to ‘see’.

The command to “see” means, to watch, to be mindful, to live our life with careful consideration, to observe everything with care and understanding. Jesus warns us that many influencers will want to blind us. Yet, the overwhelming flow of lies around us and the cultural pressure is not an excuse not to have clear spiritual sight. There is no excuse for not seeing. Our ability and responsibility is to see.

Gertraud “Traudl” Junge was the private secretary of Hitler. She was young and naive. First, she gave herself an excuse why she didn’t ‘see’ the evilness and horror of what Hitler did:

“Of course, the horrors, of which I heard in connection of the Nuremberg trials; the fate of the 6 million Jews, their killing and those of many others who represented different races and creeds, shocked me greatly, but, at that time, I could not see any connection between these things and my own past. I was only happy that I had not personally been guilty of these things and that I had not been aware of the scale of these things. However, one day, I walked past a plaque on the Franz-Joseph Straße (in Munich), on the wall in memory of Sophie Scholl. I could see that she had been born the same year as I, and that she had been executed the same year I entered into Hitler’s service. And, at that moment, I really realized that being young is no excuse, but that it might, perhaps, have been possible to find these things out.”

There was no excuse not to see when others saw what she didn’t. Sophie Scholl died with his brother because she saw the truth and acted.

So few have the ability to ‘see’ clearly today. People are blinded and lost their ’sight’ and follow the many ‘false teachers’, cultural influencers and self-proclaiming ‘saviors’.

Here are 5 major reasons why people are BLINDED:

  1. Pleasures – it’s easy just to focus on personal gratification. We are happy until some of our basic, simple needs are met. C.S. Lewis said it well: “We are way too easily pleased.”
  2. Ignorance – it’s convenient to live our life in the little bubble of ignorance and indifference. Most people keep their heads in the sand.
  3. Pain – it’s too painful to face the brutal reality of our world.
  4. Fear – it’s too fearful to face that the brutal reality around us would demand a personal change, it would come with a price. We don’t want to change our life or the way we think; we don’t want anything to disrupt our personal space and challenge our security or identity.
  5. Hate – it’s too hard to face our past, our failures, it’s easier to blame and hate others for the problems around us. It sees that nothing united people more in the course of history than shared hate. Hate creates a bound between people, releases them from the “burden” of personal responsibility and frees their conscious. Hate gives people a way out from owning their life and their problems and from living with maximum responsibility, while at the same time it gives them a sense of belonging: “we are together in this”.

No one, but you are responsible to not let hate, fear, ignorance and pleasure blinging you! Otherwise these things will control you and consume you.

The Command to Trust.

“Do not be anxious!” – says Jesus (13:11b). In the midst of all the moral, economic, political, environmental and relational chaos our natural reaction is to panic, to be anxious, to worry and to lose hope. We are commanded not to go there. We are commanded to trust in the Ruler of History and the Creator of this Universe – trust in the One keeps everything under His control. The decay doesn’t surprise Him. He told us that this will happen 2000 years ago.

The Promise of Words.

“Say whatever is given to you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.” (13:11b).

He has NOT promised that we will not be hated, that our life will be spared, that we will live a peaceful life, that we will not experience betrayal, losses, pain and disappointment. Matter fact, He has promised the opposite: trials, betrayal, isolation, persecution, etc.

The only thing that He has promised in the hour of abomination is the POWER of WORDS: the Words of the Holy Spirit spoken through us! God created the universe with the power of His Words. The creating power of words spoken through us by the Holy Spirit is the way how we can defend ourselves in the age of decay.

Words create wars and stop them. Words cause wounds or heal them. Words destroy relationships or build them. Words separate us or bind us.

When the power of WORDS, the SPOKEN TRUTH is taken away, then we become completely defenseless.

BE A SEER AND A SPEAKER OF THE TRUTH WHILE YOU KEEP YOUR FIRM TRUST IN GOD – THAT’S HOW YOU LIVE IN A DECAYING CULTURE.