Wolf Stake Baptist Church
Sunday, September 23, 2018
Redeeming Love

Hope for America?

“We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation. But we have forgotten God.” ABRAHAM LINCOLN
 
We are living in post-Christian times. By this I do not mean that there aren’t enough churches in America. There are. Our towns and cities are full of buildings designed for the worship of God, and in some cases still used for that purpose. Nor do I mean that there aren’t very many Christians in America. We still have plenty of those, too. The vast majority of Americans believe in the existence of God, and many claim to be “born again.”
 
Nevertheless, we are living in post-Christian times, when Christianity no longer exercises a prevailing influence on the mind and heart of our culture. There was a time when America was a Christian nation, at least in several important respects. There was a time when the leaders of this New World sought to establish a “city on a hill,” a community for Christ and His kingdom. There was a time when our fundamental notions of freedom and justice were firmly embedded in the bedrock of biblical truth. There was a time when the Bible held a central place in the curriculum of the public schools and when our leading universities cultivated the Christian mind. There was a time when average Americans knew their Bibles well enough that biblical teaching had a strong influence on what people thought and how they behaved. In short, there was a time when Christianity shaped the social, political, moral, religious, and intellectual landscape of these United States.
 
We should be careful not to glamorize the past. From the very beginning, our nation was corrupted by sin, especially through the institution of slavery. And the church has always been weakened by nominal Christianity. So although it is true that America in some ways was a Christian nation, in other ways it was also a non-Christian nation. Yet in spite of our past failings, we cannot help but lament the passing of a time when God still mattered in American life.
 
As we reflect on America’s cultural situation in the twenty-first century, we appear to be living in the times that the apostle Paul described for Timothy when he said: “Mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves… lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.… For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine” (2 Tim. 3: 1, 2a, 4b; 4: 3a). What Paul said serves as an apt description of our own narcissistic and relativistic times, when people serve themselves and are skeptical of the possibility of truth.
 
Historians now generally regard the twentieth century as the American Century. It is too early to tell what they will call the next hundred years, but in America it may well be the first post-Christian century. Of course, it is always possible that a new wave of reformation and revival will sweep across our land. Then again, our country may come to a sudden and catastrophic end, precipitated by an energy crisis, a financial meltdown, or an enemy attack. But what seems most likely is that what is perhaps the most powerful nation in the history of the world will undergo a long, slow, demoralizing decline before finally collapsing under the weight of its own decadence. NOW HOW SHALL WE LIVE?
 
When we look to the Bible we see God’s plan for the church at all times and in all places. So to understand how to live for Christ in the twenty-first century, we need to go back to the first century. This is not traditionalism; it is not irrelevance; it is not living in the past. It is timeless Christianity, which is founded on Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday and today and forever (Heb. 13: 8).
 
The first church was founded on the gospel. After Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, raised from the dead, and ascended back to heaven, His followers remained in Jerusalem. God poured out His Holy Spirit and they began to preach. Their message was salvation in Jesus Christ. They spoke of His atoning death, how Christ died on the cross for sinners. They emphasized the reality of Christ’s resurrection and exaltation, coming to this climax: “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2: 36). People responded the way sinners ought to respond when they learn about the grace that God offers in Jesus Christ. Their hearts melted and they asked what they should do.
 
The apostle Peter told them to turn away from their sins and put their faith in Christ. He said, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2: 38). He pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation” (Acts 2: 40). That last statement is significant because it shows that the first Christians lived in the same times that we live in. Not exactly the same, of course, because they were pre-Christian rather than post-Christian. But like us, they were living in a corrupt culture, and thus they can show us what it means to live for Christ in declining times.
 
Here is what they did: They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2: 42– 47)
 
The first Christians were saved by turning to Jesus in faith and repentance. Once they were saved, they formed a teaching, worshiping, and caring community that, by the grace of God, also became a growing community. *
 
Come join us as we seek to Teach, Worship, Care, and grow into a A CHURCH FOR CHRIST, as they did.

 

*Ryken, Philip Graham (2003-03-01). City on a Hill: Reclaiming the Biblical Pattern for the Church (p. 32). Moody Publishers.