COME BOLDLY TO THE THRONE OF GRACE!

I have always loved (maybe even an obsession) studying the origination of the meaning of words, especially Greek words, the language in which the New Testament was written. Studying the etymology of a word and how it developed in meaning over time proves to be most profitable, as it sheds brighter light upon its meaning and opens up the depth and richness contained within that would otherwise not be known. Often times when translating from one language to another it is difficult to find an equivalent word, and many times the word chosen doesn’t reveal the richness contained in the original word.

In meditating on Hebrews 4:16 recently, one word in the verse leaped out at me, which required further digging into its meaning.   The verse reads, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (KJV). In the uncertain hour of our day, it is a verse that gives great strength and encouragement. The word that leaped out at me was the word “boldly.”  The Greek word is παρρησία (parrhésia) (par-rhay-see’-ah), which is translated in other places in the Bible as “confidence” (Acts 28:31; Eph 3:12; Heb. 10:35; I John 2:28, 3:21, 4:17; 5:14). The much respected ESV translates parrhésia in Hebrews 4:16 as “confidence” which is most appropriate.  It might be added, in the NT parrhésia is found 31 times and is sometimes translated “bold,” “boldly,” “openly,” or “confidence.”

When we look at the etymology of the word parrhésia it opens up a vein of golden nuggets of truth that adds value to its meaning and encouragement for our souls.

Παρρησία (parrhésia) comes from two Greek words, one  meaning “all or everything” and the other “utterance or speech.” It literally means “to say everything.”  Originally the word had political connotations in 5th century BC Athens to describe the freedom of speech Greek citizens of Athenian democracy enjoyed. It was one of the highest privileges of a full citizen who was granted the right to speak with frankness without fear. The word meant “the absence of fear when speaking; speaking with boldness, frankness, openness, assurance and courage” (Donald Burdick, Letters of John the Apostle, Chicago: Moody, 1985, 208-9).

Parrhesia also was used in the philosophical realm to describe the words spoken by a Hellenistic philosopher, that what he was saying he was speaking with assurance that it was the truth. The word “parrhesia” was used to refer to the relationship between the speaker and what he spoke.  For a Greek philosopher the connection between belief and truth took place in the verbal activity of speaking with such assurance and confidence that it left no doubts about his own personal possession of the truth. His boldness in speaking presupposed his own possession of the truth and in his words was conveying such truth to others (Theologica, Vol. 6 No. 2 (2016), 91).

Over time the word shifted from a political and philosophical emphasis to refer to the words spoken between friends. Parrhesia was “the entire freedom with which intimate friends unburdened their hearts to one another” (Curtis Vaughan, 1, 2, 3 John, Zondervan, 1970, 69).  It referred to friends having the courage, boldness, and freedom to say with openness and frankness what needed to be said to one another because of the relationship between them. Parrhesia was linked to courage and openness in one’s speech in truth based upon the abiding relationship of the individuals.

Understanding the richness of these meanings illuminates what it means to come “boldly” to the throne of grace. Hebrews 4:16 tells us that you and I have the liberty, courage, boldness, to speak with an openness far greater than that granted to an Athenian citizen, far greater than a Hellenistic philosopher delivering a discourse, far greater than close friends sharing intimate details…but we can have the privilege to not only speak but to speak freely, openly, confidently and boldly to the holy God of the universe because of the personal relationship we have with Him!!   How can that be?

Before Christ died and entered into heaven, there was no such freedom to speak freely, openly and boldly before the throne of grace. Man had no offering which he could bring that would make him acceptable to God or allow him access to the Father. But now the way has been open. Because of Christ’s work on the cross, we now have boldness of speech to do so.  Access is now free for all who have trusted Christ, that we might come with the freedom, openness, courage, boldness and confidence before the throne of grace.  In the OT entrance into the most holy place was forbidden to all but the high priest; but now access to the real “holy of holies” has been granted to all in the name of our great High Priest, Jesus Christ.  We are now invited to come and bring our petitions, our heart cries, our every need. We don’t have to come timidly, but we rest in confidence upon the truth of Christ’s work on the cross which grants us liberty to speak freely, boldly, with courage, with confidence before the throne of grace.  It defies comprehension, but we are even invited to do so, “come” the verse says. Wow!

Robert Milligan expresses the verse well: “The mind of the writer and readers are full of the imagery of the Levitical system, and of the ceremonial of the high-priestly atonement; and the form of the exhortation suggests the grandeur of the position in which the Christian is placed, as compared with that of the Jew; ‘let us therefore,’ trusting the divine power and human sympathy of Jesus the Son of God, ‘draw near,’ as priests ourselves in fellowship with our High Priest – and not remain standing afar off as the congregation of Israel – ‘to the throne of grace,’ no symbolic mercy seat, but the very center of divine sovereignty and love” (Milligan, New Testament Commentary, Epistle to the Hebrews, Nashville, 1962, 148).

What encouragement and rejoicing that should bring to our hearts, that anytime from anyplace we may approach with παρῥησιας, with freedom, openness, confidence, liberty of speech, in contrast to the fear and trembling of the Jewish high priest. Because of Christ’s finished work on Calvary nothing is to be feared, providing our heart is in relationship with Him, we can present our requests with joyful confidence and with the bold assurance that we will find grace to help us in time of need. Having now boldness and liberty to enter the holiest by the blood of Jesus, let with confidence in that truth come before Him continually knowing His grace is ever available to aid us.

Yes, the use of the word parrhesia was used by the writer of Hebrews to give us encouragement to come freely and confidently to God in prayer. What a privilege we have been gifted.   Have you and I been to the throne of grace today? We have a standing invitation to do so….and to do so boldly!

Blessings,                                                                                                                                                                          Dr. Dan

THE RIPENING TIMES

Even those who only have a nominal understanding of the Bible have heard faithful preachers warn that in the last days, shortly before Christ returns, there will appear on the world scene one known as the Antichrist. He will appear as the answer man who has the solutions to the world’s woes. There are those who contend believing in such a personage is straight out of mythology, an impossibility to ever occur, and all who hold to such a teaching are deluded fools. Then there  are others who contend the Bible is crystal clear in its teaching of such a personage who will arise out of turbulent times as “the answer man,” and the current conditions of the hour reveal that the prophetic clock is ticking ever closer to the Antichrist’s appearance. After almost fifty years of studying the Bible, you can include me in the latter category, and that being true it behooves one to prepare for Christ’s return. The Church has been deployed to sound the alarm.  And regardless of the role the current pandemic has in end times prophecy, the spread of the coronavirus should force you and I to ask, “Am I prepared for Christ’s return?”

The current pandemic and the confusion, death, and economic uncertainty it has brought worldwide is proof of how easy it will be for the Antichrist to ascend to power. Now I am by no means predicting this current crisis will usher in his appearing, but only underscoring how unproblematic  it will be for him to fill the vacuum brought on by a worldwide upheaval.  When “that day” arrives of his appearing it will be on the coattails of a global crisis, worldwide economic instability, lack of strong leadership among the nations, and worldwide confusion. He will tout himself as the “answer man” to the world’s excessive and hopeless problems.

The current worldwide pandemic and the chaos it has brought, is a clear sounding prelude to “that day” which will unfold. In “that day” the Antichrist will be embraced like a bride on her wedding day! Paul Henri-Spaak (1899-1972), the former Prime Minister of Belgium, and one of the chief architects of the European Economic Community, stated before his death, “We do not want another committee. We have too many already. What we want is a man of sufficient stature to hold the allegiance of all people, and to lift us out of the economic morass in which we are sinking. Send us such a man and, be he God or the devil, we will receive him.” (William Cantelon, The Day the Dollar Dies, (Florida: Bridge-Logos, 2009), 9).  Such a man is on the horizon.

Before proceeding, what is meant by the term Antichrist? The Greek word is ἀντίχριστος, is made up of two words ἀντί meaning “against, oppose” and χριστος meaning Christ. The term “antichrist” is found only in First John 2:18, 22; 4:3 and 2 John 7. John uses it as a term to point out that there are many antichrists (false teachers) who will appear in the “last hour,” which refers to the time between Christ’s first coming and His Second Coming. While John uses the term “antichrist” to refer to false teachers who oppose and deny Christ, the Bible clearly teaches there will one day be a man who will rise to world power in the end times who will be the ultimate embodiment of the antichrist spirit. Paul calls him the “man of sin,” the “son of perdition,” “the lawless one” (2 Thess. 2:3-4). He will “oppose and exalt himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”

In Revelation 13:5-8, the Antichrist is referred to as “the beast.” Rising to power as a very charismatic and influential leader, with political shrewdness, strategic in organization, and economically savvy, John writes that the beast will in time speak great blasphemies against God. The prophet Daniel saw a vision of the Antichrist (chs. 7, 8, 11)  and became sick at what he saw (Dan 8:27).  Calling  him the “little horn,”  Daniel warns he will in the end wreak much havoc upon the earth.

Now the question is how is it possible that the nations will embrace one who opposes Christ and who will speak blasphemies against God? What will be the character of the Antichrist which will result in the nations of the world embracing him?

First, it will be unproblematic  for the world to embrace the Antichrist because it will be easy to deceive people because there is already an antichrist spirit that pervades much of society, which with each passing year grows more pervasive.

Second, the Antichrist will exhibit traits that will delude people, enabling him to waltz into power. He will persuade the nations he  is the answer man to the world’s woes. The Bible tells us he will be intelligent (Dan 7:8), a charismatic speaker (Dan 7:8), a shrewd politician (Dan. 9:27), attractive physical appearance (Dan 7:20), crafty in military affairs (Rev. 4), economically savvy (Dan 11:38). However, once he gets control his real character will be revealed. He will be a blasphemer (Rev. 13:6), lawless (2 Thess 2:8), controlling (7:25), an egomaniac who  will demand god-like status (2 Thess 2:4). The book of Revelation is a prophetic look into the future of the judgements that will befall the Antichrist and the people and nations who embrace him.

Third, the chaotic times of “that day”  will find the nations without protest  “turning over the keys” to him giving him control, believing that he can solve the problems that plague humanity at that time. The current pandemic has revealed how  easy it has been for political voices and the news media to control the airwaves and alter societal behavior. Yes, our current crisis demonstrates how unproblematic  it will be when the “time is ripe” for the man of sin to persuade society that he is the answer man and the nations will embrace him and hand over the keys to him.

Fourth, the Apostle Paul writes that the Antichrist’s rise to power will be unproblematic because of man’s willful  hardening his heart to the truth as found in Christ who alone can save, “and for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might experience judgement who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thess 2:10-12). Oh, what a sobering truth found in those verses that should alert  us to keep our hearts attuned  to Christ.

It  has not been my  intent here to look at all the features and details surrounding the Rapture of the Church and the appearing of the antichrist and the events surrounding his ascension to power and his eventual demise. My purpose has been  to warn people that the times of the seasons are becoming ripe for the Antichrist’s  appearance and it is time that we make sure our hearts are in tune with the risen Christ and our  soon coming King.  And as stated at the beginning, regardless of the role the current pandemic has in end times prophecy, the spread of the coronavirus should force you and I to ask, “Am I prepared for Christ’s return?”

Time is drawing nigh. Let us spread the hope of Christ while there is time. Paul said it well, “And that knowing the time, that now it is high time to awaken out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed” (Rom 13:11).

Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

A PRAYER FOR PROSPERITY

In the brief letter of 3 John we discover a heartfelt prayer the elder Apostle John expresses for his friend Gaius. In this present hour of uncertainty that surrounds us, it is a prayer that would be most appropriate to utter for all those in the circle of our friendships. Writing to Gaius, John commends him for his hospitality in opening his heart and home to those traveling about preaching the Gospel. Gaius graciously extended spiritual and physical assistance to those willing to sacrifice and share the Good News of Christ.

In verses one and two, John writes, “The elder unto the well-beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth. Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (KJV). In these two verses John (1) Expresses Personal Love for Gaius, and (2) Expresses Prayer for Gaius.

We discover John’s Personal Love for Gaius expressed in verses one and two in the words “well-loved/beloved” and “truth.” In this short letter John uses the word “beloved” four times (1, 2, 5, 11). The word “beloved” is a word of affection and endearment. It is the Greek word “agapeto,” the word used of divine love. John loved Gaius with a love that is greater than any earthly love, but a love anchored in the character of God. John even clarifies this love further by stating, “Whom I love in the truth.” Love that flows from the Lord is more than mere emotion but has stable substance…it is anchored in the truth. Divine love is not disconnected from truth in its content and expression. To divorce love from truth is nothing more than sentimentality. Agape love and truth which flows from Christ are companions of the heart and head that will remain constant in the storms of life and man’s ever-changing moods. Is that the kind of love we have for our fellow brothers and sisters?!?

Expressing his personal love for Gaius, in verse two John Expresses a Prayer for Gaius. John writes, “I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (KJV). The first part of the “wish” of John for Gaius, to be prosperous/successful and in good health, can be found in many first-century letters. However, John adds an important element, he prays that the spiritual health of Gaius will remain robust.

Let it be noted, the word translated “wish” (KJV) is the Greek word εὔχομαί (euchomai), which can be translated by a variety of words, “wish, desire, make request of God, to pray, a pious wish.” While the word euchomai expresses a strong and earnest desire for something, in the NT it clearly implies to pray, as the word is translated “pray” in 2 Corinthians 13:7 and James 5:16. Its fundamental meaning as used by John is that he is expressing to God a pious wish, desire, request, prayer that Gaius would be prosperous in three areas: (1) Prosper in life’s journey, (2) Prosper Physically, and (3) Prosper Spiritually.

Let us examine each.

First, John prays Gaius will prosper in life’s journey. He prays, “that thou may prosper.” The word translated “prosper” comes from the Greek word εὐοδόω (euodoō) which means “to grant a successful prosperous journey, to cause to prosper, to be successful, to be prosperous in secular affairs.” John is praying Gaius will be prosperous in his life’s journey and will be successful in all he does in service for the Lord. Paul used the word in Romans 1:10 when he told the Romans he was praying that he would “have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.” It was a word that was used to include “wished for” success in life’s endeavors. It is good and right for us to pray for others to have a “prosperous journey” in life’s endeavors for the Lord. John’s prayer reveals that it is proper and right, especially during this current pandemic crisis, to pray that our friends have success in their endeavors for the Lord’s honor and glory.

Second, John prays Gaius will prosper in physical health, “and be in health.” The word translated health is ὑγιαίνειν, which means “to be well, to be in good bodily health.” Interestingly, Paul used this same word to speak of sound doctrine and teaching (I Thess. 1:10, 6:3). The word is in the present tense, active voice, meaning his wish was for sound health and well-being to follow Gaius continually and would ever be a present reality in his life. Some have suggested by the wording that Gaius may have had some health issues and John was wishing him good health. But since this was a common greeting and desire expressed in letters of the day, one can’t definitely say. But since Gaius extended great hospitality to traveling evangelists, John was praying that good health would continue to allow him to assist them. Again, especially in the panic of the present pandemic scare, it is proper and right for us to pray for the well-being and good health of others, as it enables one to focus attention and energy on serving the Lord and not be distracted by health issues that might bring one anxiety and slow one down from service for Him.

Third, John prays Gaius will prosper in spiritual health, “even as thy soul prospereth.” The order of the Greek conveys a striking truth, “above all things” at the first of the sentence is in contrast to “thy soul” at the end of the sentence, signifying Gaius was a Christian whose spiritual life was of such “good health” that John prayed that all other things in his life would equal the prosperity of his soul life. The word “soul” (psuche) here speaks of the “principle of the higher life, one’s spiritual life.” Above even being prosperous in our endeavors, above being in good health, the foremost important area of our lives is the health of our relationship with Jesus Christ. All the time, but especially in uncertain times like today, we need to pray for the well-being and health of our soul and the soul of others.  In the case of Gaius, his spiritual health was the measurement by which John prayed for his physical health. If our physical health matched our spiritual health what kind of condition would we be in?! A sobering question indeed.

What a marvelous one sentence prayer John utters on behalf of his friend, Gaius. It is a prayer we should and ought to pray on behalf of those whom the Lord has let cross our paths. The three areas John prays to be experienced in the life of Gaius we need to pray to be experienced in the life of one another. And it just could be that we would see more of all three being manifested in others, if we consistently prayed for them to become a reality. In the current hour in which we live, it is a good time to start.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

HAVE YOU SEEN HIS VOICE?

Tradition holds that the Roman emperor Domitian attempted on more than one occasion to put to death the Apostle John. According to Tertullian (A.D. 166-240), the second/third century theologian, “the Apostle John was plunged into boiling oil” but was unhurt, being miraculously delivered from death. Surviving the attempt upon his life, the Roman emperor, seeking to be rid of John, banished him to the island of Patmos (Tertullian, The Prescription of Heretics, chapter XXXVI; Rev. 1:9). Located in the southern part of the Aegean Sea, it was on the island of Patmos that John had a vision of Jesus Christ and wrote the book of Revelation (c. 95 A.D.). While in exile John writes, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. And I turned to see the Voice that spoke with me….” (Rev. 1:10-12).

I have always been captivated by the wording of the first part of verse 12, “And I turned to see the Voice that spoke with me.” The Greek word translated “turned”  pictures his back was to the Voice and he turned completely around and turned toward the Voice. The Greek verb translated “see” (βλέπειν – from blepo  means “to see, perceive by the use of the eyes”) is in the present tense and active voice, meaning John’s eyes were glued on the One whose voice he heard and saw.  This incident happened while John was on a high cliff in the southern extremity of Patmos looking over the Aegean Sea. Having had his back to the continent of Asia and the seven churches located there (Rev. Ch. 2&3), he hears a Voice sounding like a trumpet behind him. Hearing the commanding Voice, John instantly turns around and looks to the north-east where the seven churches were located. On a barren, rocky and lonely island John hears a mighty voice that captured his attention, causing him to immediately turn around to “to see the Voice that spoke” with him, who was Jesus.

The Bible is always exact in its wording from which we are to glean truth. How is it possible to “see a voice?” Endeavoring to examine John’s phrase, let us pray we, too, will see His Voice.

First, John saw the Lord’s Voice by Way of Remembrance. Sixty years had passed since John had last heard the audible voice of Jesus, but as soon as he heard His voice, he  clearly relived in his mind the One to whom the voice belonged. How many of us have had the experience of receiving a phone call from a friend we have not heard from in a long time, but when we hear that familiar voice, we in our mind see the individual clearly. We see the voice by way of remembrance.

As soon as John heard the voice of the One he had walked with and heard teach for three years, he immediately saw in his mind the Voice who spoke with him. His mind flashed back to the many miracles he saw Jesus do, the teachings he heard from His lips, the prayers he heard Him pray, the instruction He had given him at the cross to look after His mother, the words He spoke after His resurrection and the words He spoke at His ascension. In the same respect we need to see His voice by way of remembrance. In our mind’s eyes we need to ever visually recall the times our Lord has spoken to us through His Word, helped us through difficult times, His presence unmistakably encompassing us, the time He has answered our prayers, and all the blessings He has bestowed upon us. We must never let fade from our memories His abundant blessings and abiding presence that have sustained us throughout our lives.

Second, John saw the Lord’s Voice as result of his Walk of Relationship. John, now sixty years removed from hearing verbally Jesus’ voice, because of his abiding relationship with the resurrected Savior could still hear His voice ringing in his ears. Matter of fact, when John wrote First John, he says he heard Jesus speak (I Jn 1:1). The tense of the word John uses for “heard” is in the perfect tense, meaning what he heard Jesus speak sixty years before was still ringing in his ears! Is it not true, that someone with whom we have had a close relationship or who has had great influence upon our lives, our ears continue to hear their voice  long after the words have been spoken. It is all because of the relationship we had with them. My mother departed this life over twenty years ago, but I still have a visual image of her voice because of the relationship experienced.

Do we continually hear our Savior’s voice as the result of our relationship with the resurrected Christ? Like Adam in the early days of the Garden (Gen. 3:8), we need to walk daily with the Voice who desires to have continual fellowship with us. We must never lose sight of His Voice. Like John we need His voice ever ringing in our ears with his instruction and guidance. As we spend time listening to Him speak to us through the Word, we learn to see His Voice in life’s situations.

Third, John saw the Lord’s Voice in the Word of Reversal. When John heard the familiar Voice, he stopped what he had been doing and instinctively turned around, reversed the  direction he was facing, to see the Voice that spoke to Him. Upon hearing the Voice of His Savior, John “turned around” to see the Voice who had a message for him to pen.  John had learned that responding to a word of reversal from the Lord was always in his best interest. Is the Voice of our Savior clearly heard by our spiritual ears, that we instinctively  turn around and respond in obedience when He speaks to our hearts regarding a matter or direction we are take or not take? In a world of a myriad of voices, do we hear and see His voice above all others? Are we so familiar with Jesus’ voice that when we see His Voice we instinctively respond? What if John had not turned around; oh, what he would have missed? May we ever keep our ears attuned to see the Voice of Him who for our best and His glory,  at times speaks to us a word of reversal.

Interestingly, throughout the book of Revelation, His Voice from heaven is one of the main focal points of John’s Apocalyptic writing. In the last book of the Bible, John’s is clearly emphasizing that in the chaos of the last days clearly seeing His voice is of vital importance if one is going to survive the times. In the current hysteria of the day, our greatest need is to “see His Voice.”

O Lord, grant it to be so.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

PREACHING WITH UNCTION!

The need of this present hour of crisis is for preaching that has been blessed with unction by the Holy Spirit.  In First John 2:20 we find the Apostle John writing, “But ye have an unction from the Holy One” (KJV). What did John mean by the “unction from the Holy Spirit?” An ol’ preacher was once asked to define what John meant by “unction of the Holy Spirit.” He perceptively replied, “I don’t know how to define it, but I know when you ain’t got it!”

While the preacher’s message may have proper content and be biblically accurate, does the message he is proclaiming possess him, is he engaged in incarnational preaching? What is incarnational preaching? The Incarnation is described by John as “the Word become flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). The Incarnation is God (divine) in Jesus Christ (human flesh) dwelling on earth for the purpose of revealing and making Himself known to humanity. Incarnational preaching, then, is preaching that weds together by the Holy Spirit (divine) with the messenger (flesh) and the preaching of the Word (eternal). The messenger and the message from God’s Word must be inseparably united by the Holy Spirit if it is to be effective and revelatory to the hearers.

John in his use of the word “unction” goes beyond what characterized an effective proclamation by Greek philosophers of his day. The Greek philosophers believed for one to have a verbal discourse that was effective and influential upon their hearers it had to possess three inseparable elements – logos, ethos and pathos. All three must be inextricably linked together like the roots, trunk, and branches of a tree if the words spoken were to penetrate the psyche of those listening. Logos was the intellectual and rational content of what was spoken. Could the speaker explain intelligently, rationally and coherently in a way that would connect with the experiences of the hearers? The element of ethos touched upon some ethical or virtuous element that could be applicable to the hearer’s everyday life. Then there was pathos which referred to the passion with which the speaker spoke. How could the speaker expect others to adopt or accept his proclamation as valid and worthy of consideration if his words were not conveyed with passion that confirmed they were of value in his life and, therefore, were worthy to be considered as being of great value for the hearer’s life.

This union of logos, ethos, and pathos, John elevates to a much, much higher level in his use of the word translated “unction.” The Greek word χρῖσμα (chrisma) comes from the word xríō (chrio) from where Christ (anointed One) is derived. Chrio means “anything smeared on, salve, ointment, to anoint by rubbing or pouring olive oil on someone to represent the empowering of the Holy Spirit. Anointing involved rubbing olive oil on the head, especially to present someone as divinely-authorized and appointed by God to serve as prophet, priest or king, etc. and by it they were regarded as endued with the Holy Spirit and divine gifts (Ki 19:16; Lev 8:12; Ps 133:2; 1 Sam 10:1, 16:13; 2 Sam 2:4, 5:3).”  Chrisma (unction) refers to the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit guiding and empowering the receptive believer in his proclamation of the Word; refers to the gift of the Holy Spirit, as the efficient aid in imparting knowledge of the truth. So in summary, “unction” is the special anointing or endowment of the Holy Spirit of one who is proclaiming divine truth.

While every preacher needs logos, being able to verbally share the truth intelligently and coherently; and needs ethos, conveying the applicability of the truth to others; and needs pathos, a passion that demonstrates that the verbal communication is more than nicely strung together words but words that have captured the speakers life  and he passionately shares with others as worthy for them to adopt for their lives; but above all, the preacher needs an endowment and anointing of the Holy Spirit to be effective in communicating the truths of God’s Word that it will revelatorily  penetrate the heart and spirit of the hearer.

Unction is the product of God’s Spirit, not man.  Yet incarnational preaching cannot be disconnected from the preacher’s daily life, and cannot be disconnected from the power of the Holy Spirit in the verbal transmitting of the truth to the hearers. The goal of incarnational preaching, preaching with unction, is that the hearers will be more deeply challenged, convicted, inspired, encouraged and convinced by the truths they are hearing. Oh, how that is needed today.

Since preachers have different personalities and methods of delivery, we must never equate personality characteristics with unction. Unction begins when the preacher is immersed in the truth of God’s Word and it first grips the core of his being, has bathed his message in prayer, and has the surrendered attitude of John the Baptist, “[Christ] must increase, I must decrease” (Jh 3:30). Charles Spurgeon wrote that without the “unction” of the Holy Spirit the preacher is “like branches without sap, like ships without wind, like coals without fire. Where there is no unction, it does not matter what we preach or how we preach it. Do not preach [a text] until you have taken it up into yourself as the wick takes up the oil. So only can you be a burning and a shining light.”

A wick soaked in oil, burning brightly to give Light…..now that is preaching with “unction.” O Lord, let it be so.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

THE REMEDY FOR FEAR

Society has been turned upside down. We have been jolted from our couches of ease by the spread of the coronavirus. It has created panic and hysteria as we have been given directives  as to how we should and shouldn’t conduct our daily activities. We have been removed from our comfort zone and as a result fear has gripped the hearts of many. Jesus spoke of coming days when the foundations will be shaken and “men’s hearts failing them for fear (phobos)” (Luke 21:26).

The Greek word for fear in Luke 21:26 is φόβος (phobos), which means to “flee, withdrawal, to avoid because of dread or fright, to remove oneself from because of feeling inadequate, withdraw from without sufficient resources.”  In Greek mythology Phobos (fear) was the offspring of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess associated with love, and Ares, the Greek god of war. Phobos (fear) had a twin brother named Deimos (terror). Phobos (fear) and Deimos (terror) were known for accompanying their father Ares into battle. In time Phobos (fear) became the personification of fear brought about by war. For the Greeks the word carried with it the idea of running away from, of fleeing panic-stricken from a battle.

We experience many wars in our lives and fear often appears alongside terror, fears twin brother, making us want to flee. Fear is the opposite of courage, the opposite of enduring with fortitude, the opposite of peace. Today as the result of lives being upended from the pandemic scare, we see people responding in panic and fear. People are fearful they or a loved one will catch it, fearful they will suffer financial loss, fearful of having to change their comfortable lifestyles, fearful that this could be the end of life as we have previously known it, and fearful of sailing uncharted waters.

Fear is a paralyzing emotion. Fear grips the soul when one feels they have lost control and that they are powerless to change the situation. Fear causes people to withdraw; to respond negatively attitudinal, such as paranoia and cynical. Fear, a well, can be detrimental to our physical well-being. Fear results in the loss of one’s creativity as one hunkers down instead of being innovative and productive.

When events shake the very foundation of our lives, what are we to do? For the Christian, the message that surrounds the Christ event is filled with “fear nots.” When the angel delivered the news to  Mary she would give birth to the Christ Child, she was greeted with, “Fear not.” When the angels appeared to the shepherds on the first Christmas night their announcement began with, “Fear not.” All through Jesus’ ministry He proclaimed, “Fear not.” When the women appeared at the tomb of Jesus they were greeted by an angelic message, “Fear not.” The Gospel message is saturated with “fear nots.”

What is the cure for fearing not? In speaking of the love of God, John writes, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear” (I John 4:18). Anytime we find ourselves giving birth to emotions separated from the Love of our heavenly Father, fear will result. Trust, though, casts our fear. The Greek verb translated “cast out” in First John 4:18 is in present tense, active voice; meaning it continually casts out fear no matter the circumstances. Charles Spurgeon was once visiting a farmer and noticed on top of his barn a weathervane which read “God is love.” Spurgeon asked the farmer, “You mean God’s love is fickled like the wind, ever changing?”  To which the ol’ farmer replied, “No, it means whichever way the wind blows God is still love.”  That’s it! Understanding the eternal sureness   of such  love will not produce fear, no matter which way the circumstances of life blow.

One who is fully resting in the holy-love and grace of the sovereign God, what has he to fear or flee from? One whose sins are forgiven, and whose heart is filled with the knowledge of the love of God in Christ for them, has nothing to dread in this world or the world to come, because they know nothing can separate them from the love of God which is Christ Jesus (Romans 9:35-39). Resting in the love that was demonstrated on Calvary’s Hill, His holy-love being victorious over sin, death, and the devil, should free one from the apprehension of what is to come and all dread in regard to the future. Knowing we have a Savior who supplies us with resources which are more than adequate to sustain us, casts aside fear of the unknown.

He whispers to us amidst the panic of the day, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isiah 41:10). The remedy for fear is: even in the midst of uncertainty we abide in the love of Christ, whom we trust as in control and holds all things in the palms of his hands, even our very life.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

A MOMENT OF PERSONAL PRIVILEGE, PLEASE

I have attended more than a few business meetings or convention gatherings when someone whose face is etched with the rigors of  life and the weather of years of living, will stand and ask, “Can I take a moment (point) of personal privilege to say a few words?”  Because of the individuals familiar face, the privilege is granted. Well, in this blog I would like to ask if is ok if I take a moment of personal privilege to say a few words.

With another birthday about to roll around (March 17),  just wanted to verbalize some thoughts that have been swirling in my mind. Bear with me. When I listen to all the pundits and politicians who peddle socialism, they pitch it as the magic cure-all, the panacea for which we have all been longing. Socialistic ideas are disguised in appealing and convincing sounding phrases like, “it is your right to have an equal slice of the pie,” “we are going to take from those who don’t pay their fair share and give you part of it,” “the American Dream is your right without you having to shed blood, sweat and tears to achieve it,” “the reason you don’t have is not your fault but the result of someone else;” and the nice sounding phrases go on and on. Like the gentle rain, all the good “things” we have a “right to” will fall  freely and deservingly  from the sky.

As the calendar is about to flip over to my 68th year,  and as I journey in my mind  over the many twists and turns the road of life has taken me down, I must say I don’t remember ever hearing any words like that growing up. Matter of  fact I heard, “You can have it, but you must earn it;” “don’t expect handouts, you want it earn it by the sweat of your brow;” “if you can’t afford it you don’t buy it,” “if you want something, save for it or do without;” “there are no free rides in life;” “don’t blame others for your lack of hard work and mistakes;” and “the skies the limit if you are willing to sacrifice for it.” And that is the way I was taught it was, there was no alternate road to take.

My first car was bought with money saved from priming tobacco and helping gather and stack hay bales during the summer. I went to college by working hard to achieve a track scholarship and, as well, working at a brick mill during the summer (and I found bricks weighed more than tobacco leaves!!). My working in the hot summer sun of North Carolina and the year-around track training I did in high school, taught me commitment, discipline and stick-to-it-ness. With the Good Lord’s help and dilgent work, I graduated from college (1974) with a degree in religion and philosophy, debt free.

Entering the Gospel ministry, the first church I ever pastored I made $185 a month!!! When I departed from the church almost 6 years later, I was making a whopping $350 a month! When I got married my wife and I for many years lived from hand to mouth, often doing without those things that people today say is a “right” so we would have food on the table and pay our essential bills.  Again, I was taught if you can’t afford it you don’t buy it. However, my parents also taught me, no matter how little money you have, try to save a nickel and dime here and there for the future. After over forty years it is surprising how those nickels and dimes add up.

Later, engaging in post-graduate studies, I juggled a family, a church and rigorous studies. I sacrificed and worked hard and eventually achieved multiple post-graduate degrees. I never expected anyone to give me anything, but just assumed you had to study hard, burn the midnight oil and sacrifice to earn them. Though not in the Bible as some mistakenly think, I was raised on the philosophy of Aesop, the ancient Greek, who wrote, “No good e’er comes of leisure purposeless; And heaven ne’er helps the men who will not act.”  We know it better as, “God helps those who help themselves.”

As a minister I believe in helping people and have dedicated and committed my life to help and invest in others, which has brought me great joy and I trust in turn has brought joy and help to others.  But in helping others,  I have also sought to teach people to be responsible, good things happen to those who make good choices and work hard, and discipline is the key to seeing doors of opportunities open. I have always believed it is better to teach a person to fish than to just give them the fish. Now if one can’t help themselves that is a different conversation. I have sought through the years to extend a helping hand to those in need and who require a boost, and help point them in the direction that with the Lord’s help and the willingness to work and sacrifice, one can accomplish much in life that when looking back will leave one surprised.

The Lord has blessed me richly through the years, more than I could have ever imagined and certainly don’t deserve. While I have prayed at every turn of the road, I have sought to work hard along the way.  Prayer and hard work cannot be divorced from one another  (read the book of Nehemiah).

So, the reason I do not and can never support or  embrace socialism is because of the path I thankfully was taught to take….a path that has been filled with highs and lows, successes and failures, good and bad, sadness and gladness, joy and sorrow, regrets and rewards, but because of the ups and downs has resulted in a path filled with abundant blessings that escapes my comprehension. Those willing to chase goals and willing to work hard to achieve them will find the greatest reward is found in the pursuit of those goals. Chasing goals and working for them bestows rewards money can not buy or socialism can not possibly ever give: self-respect, a clear conscience, integrity, incentive, and dignity.

Thank you for granting me this moment of personal privilege.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

THERE IS A THRONE IN HEAVEN: AND IT IS NOT EMPTY!

The Coronavirus is causing world-wide panic. People are afraid to travel, shake hands, and even mix in large crowds. The Stock Market is even suffering from the panic of the Coronavirus as it has tumbled faster than a falling star streaking across the night sky. This world-wide scare is taking place during a most important election year that many believe is for the very soul of the nation, as both sides point fingers of blame at each other. It seems the world is in chaos and no one is in control and everything is out of control.

When all appears chaotic, the Christian needs to turn to Revelation 4 where John upon being transported from this earth to inside the Pearly Gates writes, “After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this. Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.” (Rev. 4:1-2). John’s words give us assurance in chaotic times that there is not only a throne in heaven, there is Some One who sits upon that throne. In actuality, John is echoing what the prophet Isaiah saw some 700 years before (Is. 6:1), as the poetic prophet also testified the throne is not empty. Both Isaiah and John affirm that even in the midst of pandemonium the One on the throne is still in control.

Knowing that no event or circumstance takes place that surprises the Lord, we can rest in the assurance that in spite of what our physical eyes may see, His Unseen Hand is sovereignly moving events and circumstances into place to accomplish His purpose in ways that are often beyond  our finite wisdom to grasp or understand. By Providence the Lord works out His purposes even in the midst of chaotic times. Providence means foreseeing, seeing beforehand; and embraces both the good acts of men and even embraces the tragic acts and occurrences. Providence is God’s concentrated attention everywhere. As the esteemed theologian A.H. Strong has written, “God’s care is both microscopic as well as telescopic” (Strong, Systematic Theology, 1903, 89).

The problem of God’s providential dealings in the face of evil are intelligible only when we consider that Christ is the revealer of God, and that His suffering for sin opens to us the very heart of God. And all of history is the progressive manifestation of Christ’s holiness and love, and in the cross, we have the key that unlocks the secret of the universe. In the cross our Lord opens up His very heart to a hurting world, as he entered into and experienced our hurts in Jesus Christ. When the cross captures our gaze, we can believe that Love rules over all, and that “all things work together for good to them that love the Lord” (Rom. 8:28).

To not believe in the Providence of God, to not believe that all events, good and bad, are moving toward a fulfillment and destiny for which He created all things, is to leave no alternative but for one to embrace Fatalism or Casualism; that all that happens in life is by chance or coincidence and that we must be resigned to the fatalistic view that “things” just randomly happen with no real rhyme or reason.

John seeing Some One on the throne is affirmation that the good and even the evil acts of men and the bad occurrence that visit our lives, God is directing by His permissive, directive and determinative will toward a purpose often unseen by our limited eyesight. God is not the Author of moral or natural evil, yet he can by his directive, determinative and permissive will, direct such acts of men or events of nature to ends unforeseen and unintended by the agents. God directs the flow of such acts and events in one direction rather than in another, to bring about an outcome that was unforeseen by those involved. God’s overruling Providence in the face of moral or natural evil does not involve God’s complicity with the perverseness of men or events, but by His grace directs them all toward unanticipated and surprising outcomes. God power and wisdom can take what seems like a curse and turn it into a blessing!

Many examples could be given as to this truth, but one of the best examples is the life of Joseph. Sold into slavery by his brothers, then lied on by Potiphar’s wife and ending up in prison, all people and events appeared against him. However, every time something bad happened in his life the Bible says, “And the Lord was with Joseph.” In the end, Joseph is made Prime Minister of Egypt and was given authority to distribute grain during a seven-year famine. Unbeknownst to Joseph’s brothers, they find themselves standing before him for physical sustenance and for their very life. They expected their brother to take revenge, but Joseph in grace said, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (Genesis 50:20). While there was no complicity on God’s part with the evil choices of Joseph’s brothers, His overruling Providence in the face of their evil acts and the approaching famine directed their acts and the events of nature to ends unforeseen and unintended by those involved. Behind what appears to be the frown of Providence, behind those dark clouds is the smile of an all-wise and loving God.

My Christian friend, do events on the world scene seem out of control? Do events in your personal life seem out of control? Let us remember, there is a throne in heaven and it is not empty, there is One who sits upon it. And He who brought order out of chaos in the beginning of creation, will likewise bring order out of what appears to be chaos. While we may not always be able to trace the Hand of God in the events of life and on the world scene, we can always trust the Heart of God. And His heart was laid bare at the cross! Yes, there is a throne in heaven and it is not empty!

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

DOCTRINE OF CHRIST: TEST THE TEACHING

How many times I have heard well-meaning Christians remark, “As long as someone is preaching Jesus, isn’t that all that matters?” “After all,” they will misguidingly add, “doctrine is not important anyway as long as you are teaching about Jesus.” While those who make such a remark may be sincere, they are sincerely wrong. If our doctrine of Christ is wrong, then our message is wrong and is powerless to forgive sin and change a life.

Is it possible to tell if the one who is preaching/teaching Christ is communicating the Jesus of the Bible or another Jesus of man’s making and fashioning? The Apostle John in his second epistle gives clear guidance as how one may know whether or not the Jesus of the Bible is being proclaimed. That aged Apostle writes, “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John 9-11).

In a day when all kinds of Jesus’ are being proclaimed, a thorough examination of these verses will prove helpful. The authorized English version reads in verse nine, “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God.” The word translated “transgresseth” comes from the Greek word προάγω (proago) which means “to go before, to run ahead of.” It is used in verse nine to go before or run ahead of  in a bad sense, speaking of going beyond the boundaries of true Biblical doctrine in regard to the person of Christ. (In v. 9 the Greek word translated “doctrine” is didache meaning “teachings about Christ.”) Proago is present active participle which means those John is warning about continue to run outside the boundaries of true Christian doctrine. John is clear in I John 4:1-3 as to what is meant by going beyond the boundaries in regard to the doctrine of Christ, ”Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God.”

What did John mean by he “that confesses not that Jesus is come in the flesh is not of God” (I Jh 4:3)?  The word  translated “confesses” in the Greek is  ὁμολογέω (homologeó) , meaning “to speak the same thing as another, to agree with another” on a particular matter. Thus, every teacher who is in agreement with the Bible and teaches “that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God. And every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God” (I Jh 4:2-3)   So, when someone’s teaching goes beyond the teaching of the Incarnation of the Son in human flesh, thus denying the Incarnation, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, John is clear that they are “not of God” (I Jh 4:3). When someone teaches that Jesus is other than the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, the One the Old Testament predicted would come to deal with the sins of humanity, then they have gone beyond the boundaries in regard to the doctrine of Christ.   When someone teaches that Jesus is not the only remedy for the sins of humanity for the forgiveness of sins and entering into fellowship with a holy God, they have gone beyond the boundaries in regard to the doctrine of Christ. If one teaches other than that God was not only the One who offered the Sacrifice for our sin, but in Christ He was the Sacrifice, then one is preaching other than the Biblical doctrine of Christ. If one teaches that Jesus was  only a man, though the Exemplar of humanity, but not the Savior, then they have gone beyond the boundaries in regard to the doctrine of Christ. If Jesus is not preeminent (Col. 1:18) in one’s theology, He being the atoning sacrifice (I John 2:2) for our sins and in whom “there is no other name given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 ), then one has gone beyond the boundaries of the doctrine of Christ.

John is clear that if one holds to a different doctrine concerning Christ, we are not to “receive” them or support them; we are not to tolerate them. Those words seem harsh and are an offense to many today who bow at the altar of “tolerance” of anything no matter how theologically incorrect or off center it may be. But John is clear, “they are not of God” no matter how flowery their language. John says to tolerate their unsound teaching regarding the personhood of Christ, is to partake of their evil deeds (2 Jh 11).

John and Paul both warn there are those who abide not in the doctrine of Christ, but pervert it (2 John 9-11; Galatians 1:1-16). John says test the teaching (I John 4:1-4); the Greek word translated “test or try” being dokimazō “to test to see if it is genuine, to test for the purpose of approving.” How do we do that? By listening to how the teaching depicts and describes Christ. Is the emphasis on Christ blessing us with earthly riches or bringing us eternal redemption; on Christ being a man but not the God-Man; on Christ rebuilding one’s self-esteem or rescuing one from sin; on Christ being a prominent messenger of God but not the promised Messiah from God; on a Gospel that is anthropocentric not Christocentric; on Christ interested in our happiness but not our holiness, on Christ saving us in our sin not saving us out of our sin, focusing solely on Christ’s principles for our steps to the exclusion of focusing on Christ’s provision for our sins, and a Christ who serves us not we who serve Him.

It is not new contemporary verbiage that is needed today in an attempt to repackage the doctrine of Christ in order to appease and be appealing to society, but what is needed is a return to proclaiming that God became flesh and dwelt among us (Jh 1:14), revealing Himself in Jesus Christ and in grace He came to do for sinful man what he could not do for himself – and man being unable to comply with the holy demands of a righteous God, our Creator in Jesus Christ became the Redeemer and on Calvary’s Hill man’s sin debt was paid in full.

P.T. Forsyth said it eloquently, “In the fullness of time, God came in the God-man Christ, the living Word; in whom God was present, reconciling the world unto Himself … He acted not only through Christ but in Christ … In Christ we have God Himself. Christ was more than a mere messenger from God but He was God, therefore, and His death was God in action. He was not simply the witness of God’s grace, He was its fact, its incarnation. His death was not merely a seal to His work; it was His consummate work. It gathered up His whole person. It was more than a confirmatory pledge; it was the effective atonement of the gracious God, with His real presence at its core. Something was done at the cross once for all, and the subject doer of it was God…. It is not our experience we preach, but the Christ who comes in our experience. We preach not ourselves, but Christ” (Forsyth, Positive Preaching and the Modern Mind, 358).

Yes, it does matter the Christ that is being preached/taught. Test the teaching. There is no need to dress up the doctrine of Christ in gaudy colors to attract the world; to the sinful soul the finished work of Christ on the Cross is attraction enough. The words to an ol’ hymn strike a beautiful cord of joyous music in our hearts, “I need no other argument, I need no other plea; It is enough that Jesus died, And that He died for me. Enough for me that Jesus saves, this ends my fear and doubt; A sinful soul I come to Him, He’ll never cast me out. ”

Amen, what a Savior!

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

CAN A SOCIETY SURVIVE WITHOUT MORALS?

Imagine playing an NFL or NBA game without rules or referees to enforce established guidelines. Imagine opposing teams having their own set of rules and each team seeking to impose their differing rules. I think all would agree you would have chaos and utter confusion if you had no prescribed guidelines.

We are living in a day and age when everyone is seeking to impose their own differing rules when it comes to morality and the result is utter confusion and chaos. Everyone is seeking to be their own referee. The thought process today is, “What difference does it make how people live? Each can embrace their own morality in regard to one’s ethical or sexual behavior. No objective morality is necessary to have an orderly society. Each person should be allowed to do what is right in their own eyes.”

Well, is it possible to have an orderly society where no adverse consequences occur without  an objective moral standard? Can society embrace behavior regardless of how morally bizarre, live without restraint, and that society expect to last? If an objective moral standard is necessary for a society to exist that is not disintegrating, whose moral standard is society to adopt?  Can a society without morals survive?

Theologians, historians, and philosophers have wrestled with answers to such questions since time began. However, there is a common thread that runs through the findings of those who have researched  why a society collapses: a society is destined for collapse when it adopts godless secularism, rejects an objective morality, and embraces unrestrained morality where each is doing what is right in their own eyes. Arnold Toynbee, the esteemed British historian (1889-1975), observed, “Civilizations die from suicide, not murder” (Toynbee, A Study of History, Vol. I-VI, (London: Oxford University Press, 1947), 273).

Toynbee, known for his twelve-volume work A Study of History, examined the major civilizations in history and why they collapsed. While Toynbee analyzes many factors that results in a nation’s collapse, he observed that when finite human nature engages in moral regress, that society “condemns itself in advance by impiously pitting itself against God’s infinity,” leading to frustration and disillusionment (Toynbee, History Vol. 10, 32). He concluded that the downfall of Western Civilization will occur when it divorces itself “from its moral heritage from Christianity” (Toynbee, History, 92). He wrote, “Of the twenty-two civilizations that have appeared in history, nineteen of them collapsed when they reached the moral state the United States is in now.” An observation made over fifty years ago, how much truer is his statement today?

Will Durant (1885-1981), an American historian, agrees with Toynbee. He writes, “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within…. There is no significant example in history, before our time, of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion” (Durant, The Lessons of History, (1996), 51). Our first President, George Washington, had made the same observation, citing that religion and morality are “indispensable supports” for the survival of the nation.

T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), American-British poet, philosopher, and social critic, insightfully observed that the dominant force in creating a common bond in culture is Christianity where our societal laws are rooted, and “it is against a background of Christianity that all our thought has significance…all spring out of the heritage of Christian culture and depend upon that culture for meaning… If Christianity goes, the whole of our culture goes” (Eliot, Notes Towards the Definition of Culture, (1948), 122).

Toynbee, Durant, Eliot all agree if Christian morality is abandoned, even if one doesn’t embrace the Christian faith as true, barbarism will be the result and “no one would be happy with [barbarism]” (Eliot, 122; Durant 51, Toynbee, 92). Toynbee observed civilizations that cast-off moral restraints become involved in an “inevitable progressive defeat” (Toynbee, History, 32).

In today’s society as unrestrained morality continues to progress, society in the attempt to make behavior acceptable that the moral cultural conscience denounces as abnormal or deviant, a redefining of such behavior is undertaken to remove the stigma of embracing the abnormal as normal. Isaiah was witness to this in the culture of his day, warning “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20). Society today has redefined the immoral with euphemisms to make the behavior less offensive and acceptable. Abortion is not murder of the unborn but pro-choice; homosexuality is no longer stigmatized but is only an alternate lifestyle; adultery is not immoral but is simply an extra-marital relationship; transgenderism is no longer emotional and spiritual confusion but is simply gender fluidity, addictive gambling is only playing the odds; drug addiction and alcoholism are no longer self-destructive lifestyles but those involved are recreational users; same sex marriages are no longer seen as taboo but as adding to the mosaic of marriage relationships; explicit pornography is no longer smut but adult entertainment; and the next behavioral redefining will be pedophiles who are pushing their deviant behavior to be accepted as simply the right to express sexual love for another no matter the age. Once the slide into moral degeneration begins, the inevitable end is absolute moral chaos and eventual societal collapse. No matter what flowery words one attaches to abnormal behavior it will not prevent the words of Toynbee proving to be true, “Civilizations die from suicide, not murder.”

Why America’s moral decline? Why is there a redefining of behavior that the moral culture conscience denounces in order to make the behavior acceptable? Why is America in such chaos and turmoil today? Alexander Solzhenitsyn succinctly assessed, “It is because we have forgotten God. That is why all this is happening to us” (From a speech he made in London May 10, 1983, at the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion).  The chaos we are witnessing in culture today is clearly connected to our rejection of God, the moral Law Giver. When society rejects the Moral Law Giver from whom morality is derived, then man turns to his own finite human wisdom. Again, as Toynbee summarized, “Human nature has condemned itself in advance to lose by impiously pitting itself against God’s infinity” (History, 32), and that society is delusional if it thinks the outcome will be anything other than collapse. History and the witness of Scripture proves that to be the case.

There is no question America is on the path to committing moral suicide. Can there be an orderly moral society when the Moral Law Giver is rejected? Can society survive without morals? Observation clearly says the answer to that question is “NO.” We have gradually pushed God out of the societal arena, and we are discovering what culture is like without Divine Influence. Well, the results are in and the prophet Hosea has tallied them and the findings are, “They sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7).

Can America survive? Not on the path it is presently on. For “if the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3). The only answer is a sincere acknowledgment of our sin and departure from the holy Father, an embracing of the Judeo-Christian truths and morality found in the teachings and person of Jesus Christ. We need to do an about-face and, “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Is. 55:6).

Toynbee’s words wisely advise, “Sooner or later, man has always had to decide whether he worships his own power or the power of God.” It is past time we made up our minds which it will be!!

Blessings,
Dr. Dan