This year (2020) has been jolting. The very ground has shifted under our feet. It is as though in each week decades of historical development are taking place. We are to be in this world but not of it. Unless we are awake, we will very soon find ourselves bowing down to the current idols side by side with other pagans. God’s law says “You shall have no other elohim [gods] before Me” (Exodus 20:3). Yet we are living in a time when, we have been told,
The days are fast approaching when there will be great perplexity and confusion. Satan, clothed in angel robes, will deceive, if possible, the very elect. There will be gods many and lords many. Every wind of doctrine will be blowing. Those who have rendered supreme homage to “science falsely so called” will not be the leaders then. . . . The time is not far distant when the test will come to every soul. The mark of the beast will be urged upon us. Those who have step by step yielded to worldly demands and conformed to worldly customs will not find it a hard matter to yield to the powers that be, rather than subject themselves to derision, insult, threatened imprisonment, and death. (Ellen G. White, Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 80).
The last book of the Bible, Revelation, foretells a time when the nations of the globe are gathered to an ultimate, final battle. You remember it at Revelation 16:13-16:
And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments,lest he walk naked and they see his shame. And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.
Armageddon is made up of two Hebrew words, Har, which means mountain, and Megiddo, which is a place in the land of Israel. Strangely, Megiddo is not a mountain but a valley. It is the valley below the place where Mount Carmel is located. At Mount Carmel there was previously another major battle between the prophets of Baal and Elijah, the prophet of God. In that battle first the false prophets sought to show themselves able to start a fire and burn the sacrifice. But in the end Elijah prayed a simple prayer and fire came down from God out of heaven and consumed the sacrifice. The false prophets were soon slain.
The gathering and battle described in Revelation 16 is the final conflict between good and evil. Three agencies especially combine to bring everyone and everything to the ultimate test: The dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. It is not difficult to identify these three prophetic entities.
There is always a gathering toward this final conflict under way. But at this time I believe especially the dragon entity is active.
I’m not going to make the case here today, but I am going to simply remind you what the dragon is, and share with you his current work.
The dragon represents atheism, humanism, and spiritualism. What we see today is a world that has written God out of its main thought, and replaced that with a humanistic narrative of science and progress and a population ruled by technology and its elite masters.
All that has consequences. Our world is built on the Enlightenment Project but that way of thinking is under attack. In short, we are living through an attempt to shift life away from the primacy of reason. There are limitations to reason, but it has been an enormous asset. When you believe in reason you also begin to believe in the individual. The thought of John Locke (1632 - 1704) highlighted the individual.
Locke in turn influenced people like Thomas Jefferson, whose ideas found their way into the Declaration of Independence. All men are created equal, and one of the consequences of the principle of equality was that all humans were created equally free. Therefore, governments need the consent of the governed. We have inalienable, that is, unremovable rights, on the basis of our humanity. We have these rights to life and liberty because we are made in the image, or likeness, of God.
But now, congealing in our time, is postmodern thought. Postmodernism says reality is socially constructed. Neither reason nor any other means exists to acquire objective knowledge of this reality. Consequently, postmodernism emphasizes subjectivity. Stephen Hicks describes this thus:
Postmodern accounts of human nature are consistently collectivist, holding that individuals’ identities are constructed largely by the social-linguistic groups that they are part of, those groups varying radically across the dimensions of sex, race, ethnicity, and wealth. Postmodern accounts of human nature also consistently emphasize relations of conflict between these groups; and given the de-emphasized or eliminated role of reason, postmodern accounts hold that those conflicts are resolved primarily by the use of force, whether masked or naked; the use of force in turn leads to relations of dominance, submission, and oppression (Stephen R.C. Hicks, Explaining Postmodernism: skepticism and socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, p. 6).
At every step, postmodernism contests the enlightenment vision. Where enlightenment thought put the individual at center, postmodernism puts the collective there. Where under enlightenment thought people sort out problems by discussing and reasoning and voting, postmodernism holds that every individual is merely a bag of biases. Your reasoning does not matter. What is important is to identify groups and set them into conflict with one another, so that some become ascendant and others become oppressed.
Today we look around, and see groups rioting. These are explicitly, even self-declared, Marxist groups. They are governed by a hatred for the very principles of government. As they see it, everything built on the enlightenment project must be deconstructed, discredited, and uprooted.
So you rip down not only statues of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee, but also of president Abraham Lincoln who signed the Emancipation Proclamation. The entirety of this civilization is viewed as rotten. Supposedly it is--all of it--an illegitimate system of exploitative power built by white males.
Everything supposedly boils down to a power issue, and if it is a power issue, thee folks will not attempt to reason with power because they have no confidence in reason. What value could the reasoning of white males have anyway, since a white male grows up supposedly nurtured in the bosom of white supremacy. Postmodernism says that he has nothing valuable to say. The solution is to cancel him, whether by pushing him into the margins of society, or, by killing him. Remember, there are no ultimate values but power, so there is no moral liability to murder. In fact, if you are an oppressed group, the moral thing to to is to be actively engaged in destroying the oppressor power. So it is all about identifying an oppressor class and a victim class. The victims are the good guys. The oppressors are the bad guys.
David Horowitz is a former radical. Listen:
Radicals don’t see. They’re not looking at the wonderful privileges that we have because of the founders and the Constitutional framework they created. What they’re looking at is America versus heaven. Well, we lose. Marx, quoting Mephistocles says, ‘Everything that exists deserves to perish.’ That is the mentality of the radical. Everything must be swept away so that we can create a world where there’s no inequality, etc. That is the radical’s fantasy” (David Horowitz, Lecture, Hillsdale College, “Rules for Radicals: What Constitutional Conservatives Should Know About Saul Alinsky,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRUP5yEm1WE
As Horowitz says, “They see us as evil and themselves as saints. They are in a war for a new world on the other side of the rainbow. The ends justify the means.” This, he says, “is the deeply imprinted binary in the radical mind.”
And so, don’t expect the rioting in the streets to stop. Don’t expect the political fighting to stop. Don’t anticipate that social justice issues will reach some pleasant resolution. The postmodern way of thinking is at war against the very principles of fairness, reason, diversity, and unity. You cannot compromise with it or placate it or satisfy it. It is an entirely different way of thinking.
How do we do the Work of the Gospel in this Setting?
So, we are dealing with some people who are thinking in a totally different way than we are. What is our work? It is always the same: to take the gospel to the world. But that is more difficult if we and the person we are speaking with are thinking in very different ways. Sometimes even our own children, our own relatives, seem to be on a different planet. Taking a few minutes from time to time to tune up on how people are thinking, as we have done today, can help us, give us some clues about ways we can interact more effectively with them. So what are some ideas on this?
1. Watch for opportunities to help them see how they are misapprehending the world
I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house.
God calls His people to be His agents to help others, to pray that their eyes will be opened, and to speak, as He opens the way, so that their thoughts will be drawn out to see what they do not at present see.
Remember, in this way of thinking, there is no God, nothing higher than man. The Bible is not to them an opening or revealing of God’s unselfish plan for eternal life. Their view of the world can be very stark, very black and white. There is to them the utopian world they think they will create on the other side of the rainbow, and there is the current world. But there are inconsistencies in this approach, like the unspeakable suffering of millions upon millions who died in the Gulags and prisons and the revolutionary epoch in the Soviet Union and in China. They might bravely argue “that was not true Marxism,” but don’t be dissuaded.
If we look around we will see tragedies and inconsistencies in communist countries and in capitalist countries. We are not apologists for America but for the kingdom of heaven. America has done many things that are difficult to defend. God does not call us to defend the immoralities of America. But we want to be against true injustice and that is a point of common ground. Still, our goal is not to meet them on common ground where they may just think us buffoons. We are watching for gaps in whatever utopian plan they are pitching. CHAZ and CHOP were no more glorious and utopian than the Soviet gulag.
In Ephesians 1:17 Paul prays that God will give believers the spirit of wisdom and revelation. We can also pray that God will help others to see the contradictions in the theories they have been feeding on.
2. Show them another path to another ultimate future
Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there.
Here we see Paul reasoning in the synagogue with Jewish believers who had not yet accepted Jesus as Messiah, and, we see him in the marketplace in pagan Athens reasoning with Greeks. One of the key ways we can share our faith is in discussions and conversations where we contrast the futility of pagan living with the hope of Christian living.
3. Help them see the literal and actual immediate value of authentic Christianity in contrast to political and ideological solutions
James made a very practical point. When we are able in some measure to help people in need, that is not only the right thing to do, but it can evoke some appreciation. James:
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works (James 2:14-18).
We don’t see very much altruism demonstrated by humanism. They expect the government to help people in need. But when we are able to help, we show that the gospel has boots on the ground. People are more open to what we have to share when we demonstrate our good will by helping them.
4. Demonstrate an awareness of their worldview and be taken seriously as one who has explored and discovering an alternate path for meaning in your life
No, God does not call on all of us to become experts in other worldviews. But it might be that God will bless us if we make an extended effort to understand how other people who need Jesus think wrongly about the world they are inhabiting.
It has never hurt Chinese missionaries to understand the Chinese mind, or the missionary working in Utah to understand Mormonism. Now, there is a distinctive way of thinking spreading across most of the world, and it won’t hurt us to understand it better than we do.
Our task is to live and give the third angel’s message, to share in a compelling, approachable way, the gospel, the good news, the truth about God’s offer to us of eternal life through His Son Jesus. But the very way that people are reasoning is shifting. In the absence of the hope of the Christian worldview, there is a secular religion. It sees the world in a stark divide between the imperfections and the grit of the tattered mess that is, compared to the world alleged to be just around the corner when we discard individual liberty and replace it with a collectivist society ruled by themselves.
There is no human utopia ad will never be one. All there will ever be that is human is a tyrannical endpoint. But with Jesus as King there is an entirely different endpoint. We are free to choose what we will, and with an understanding of the end results of good and evil, we will all choose unselfishness and life. That is only possible with changed hearts through Jesus whose heart was pierced for us.
The gospel is designed for every hour and for this hour. God has assigned us to this hour. He gives us a mouth to speak and ears to hear. There are so many things to hear. We must start by hearing the gospel and be voices through whom others hear the gospel. May hearts be drawn to Jesus. May heaven use us in this moment in time.
Fremont MI SDA on 2020-11-06
Muskegon MI SDA on 2020-11-06