There are days when it is hard to read the news. I open my browser and see another set of headlines, I open my blog reader and see another collection of stories, and I despair. If it is not wars and rumors of war, it is other indicators that this world is sick and dying and in its death throes. I enjoy Al Mohler’s daily podcast and often listen to it while preparing and eating my breakfast, but a scan of recent headlines reminds me why I sometimes just want to climb straight back in bed: “Dolls for boys? Christians must recognize that even the toy aisle reflects a worldview.” “For celebrities, saving the elephants is the latest fad. Unborn babies? Not so much.” “When it comes to sexuality, what happens when a society’s only moral factor is consent?”
I am not convinced that things are a whole lot worse now than they were tens or hundreds or thousands of years ago. Rather, we have learned to move information faster and farther while at the same time making the world grow smaller. This has left us trapped in what Neil Postman told us is as an endless cycle of cynicism and impotence where we learn all kinds of news and information but have no ability to do anything about it. We hear it all, we feel it all, but we can take no action. All that’s left to do is despair.
Whether or not the world is worse today than it once was is a matter for historians to debate, I suppose. What is clear enough to any observant Christian is that it is bad right now. Really bad. The world seems hell bent on bringing hell to earth. Millions of unborn children are viciously slaughtered in an infanticidal holocaust that now spans the globe. Marriage is being redefined so broadly that the very institution has nearly lost its meaning and significance. The good plan and purpose of God displayed in male and female is denied while transgenderism and androgyny are celebrated. The politicians we admire are belittled and beaten by ones who frighten and grieve us. Science proclaims that this world came into being without design or designer, that it exists without purpose, and that it will end with a meaningless fizzle. It’s hard to read it all and it’s agonizing to feel it all.
Locally, children I love and pray for are identifying themselves and their sexuality in ways that I know will lead only to their harm. Provincially, our Premier is planning to redefine the very notion of parenthood while at the same time increasing oversight of Christian education and homeschooling. Federally, our Prime Minister is advancing legislation to increase and celebrate the rights of transgender individuals while inevitably decreasing the freedom of anyone else to critique or deny such identifications. Everywhere I look it looks like evil is winning.
Is evil winning? I don’t believe it. I can’t believe it. Not when I break from the bad news to focus on the good news. The despair retreats in the face of truth. The truth I preach to myself again and again is this: The gospel was given for a time like this.
When God gave us the gospel, he knew the times that would come. He knew that just months after the culmination of the gospel in the cross of Christ people would turn on Christians and begin to persecute them. But that was okay, because the gospel was for a time like that. When those early believers scattered from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria they took the gospel with them. They proclaimed it, they lived it, they fed off of it, and it sustained them. Later the whole Roman Empire turned on those Christians, but that was okay, because the gospel was for a time like that too. Through times of persecution the gospel spread to new lands and took deeper root in the lands in which it had already been planted. The blood of the martyrs proved to be seed that sprang up into a great gospel harvest. And so it has gone in age after age and era after era.
The gospel is for times of hardship and persecution, but also for times of moral confusion. The church in Thessalonica was unsure how to live for Christ in a culture that both tolerated and celebrated every kind of sexual sin and peccadillo. But the gospel was for a time like that, and Paul reminded them of the instructions he had given them through the gospel of the Lord Jesus: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5). If they would just understand the gospel and live in consistency to it, the confusion would give way to clarity.
The church in Corinth was allowing full-out sexual perversion to infiltrate its church and even its membership, but Paul did not panic, because the gospel was for a time like that. He reminded that church of the gospel and their new unity with Christ, he insisted that such immoral behavior was incongruous with people saved by such a gospel, and told them to live as they had been called. Their problem was not first addressed by panic or prohibitions but by better understanding the meaning, purpose, and freedom of the gospel. It was the gospel they needed! It was for them, for there, and for then.
The gospel was not given to a world without sin, without confusion, without difficulty and persecution—that world needs no gospel. The gospel was given to a world like this one, a world marked by every kind of pain and perversity. This world needs a gospel and, praise God!, he gave us one. He gave us the gospel of his Son. No matter how bad the news around us gets, that good news gospel is better. It was given for a time like this.
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