Without God, further crisis
In recent years, especially in the Western World, there has been an trend towards banishing God from our society. Yet contained in the Bible are examples of an important spiritual law: When a people repudiates God, there follow serious negative consequences. We must therefore wonder whether our present society's dismissive attitude towards God has any direct connection with the current economic crisis.
There are recorded in the book of Judges twelve separate cycles: disobedience to God's law; confrontation with a enemy; repentant beseeching of God for intervention; the rise of a liberator. His people were described as "every man doing what right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6, 21:25).
Our present time has been called the "Post-Modern Era". It is marked by a denial of the existence of any absolute truth, standards or values. Everyone is entitled to determine his or her own truth. This passage into the post-modern mindset can be compared to a transformation from a compass-culture (one fixed point of direction) into a radar-culture (one extracts only those items which suit one's own views, Rieman). In this, the period of the Judges seems very much like our own present times: no absolute truth and the idol of greed. And when greed is reigning, we can expect economic downfall and crisis in accordance with the previously mentioned spiritual law.
The results of a recent statistical study of my own indicate that in countries in which the percentages of Christians increase, so do the associated national economic ratings. And conversely, when the percentages of Christians decrease, so do the ratings.
Where then does the solution to the crisis lie?
We look to our politicians and hope that they will find a solution for the economic woes. In reality, however, no one knows what to do. One newspaper declares "The crisis begins with a meeting of bankers who themselves don't know what more to do." Can we expect a solution from the same sources that have designed the problem?
Clearly, the solution to the economic crisis lies not only in the details of its technical aspects, but also in the very presence and blessing of God and in the growth of His Church. The solution to our crisis does not lie in correcting the system so much as it does in the renewing of the hearts of men.
What does the post-modern man desire?
Post-modern man demands unlimited freedom. But does such a thing really exist? Who among us will knowingly step into a car without brakes?
God desires that His people be happy, but this is never to become an end in itself. He teaches us constantly in His Word where the boundaries lie. David Pawson writes in Keys To the Bible "...in such an unlimited system (Babylon) shall you find materialism without morality, pleasure without purity, luxury and riches without wisdom, lust without love." Here then stand the boundaries.
I see an important paradox:
• People want freedom, preferably without boundaries.
• But simultaneously those same people realise that such freedom does not really exist without at least the threat partial self-destruction.
What roles have the Church and the individual Christian?
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In recent times the Church has among other things made two great mistakes. The first is that she has turned inward. The second is that it has to a great degree accommodated itself to the ways of the world and has ceased to proclaim its true message.
We see this second fault demonstrated in the Bible in the life of Lot. First he made the choice to live in the neighborhood of Sodom and Gomorrah even though he knew what went on there (Gen. 13:10-13). He pitched his tents near Sodom, but before long he actually went to live in that city (14:12). Eventually he even became a town official (19:1). But the sad outcome is recorded in 19:14 where it says that eventually his family paid any attention to his message of repentance to his fellow townsmen. Dr. Rietkerk of L'Abri has put it: Whoever marries himself to the spirit of the times soon finds himself a widower.
The former director of the IMF, Johannes Witteveen, a confirmed liberal and adherent of Sufism, has written "...society has become too egotistical and materialistic...there is little solidarity. The churches are largely sitting in the background and have lost their ability to inspire." The ability to inspire demands in the first place that we be something different.
Jesus preached, "Let your light so shine before men that they see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven" (Matt. 5:16).
We must, for the sake of everyone's best interests, carry out the Church's commission, even if it appears that the world does not want to hear us. But in doing so, the Church must seek the proper tone in its message to encourage the lost to come to the realisation that they cannot live without God.
Is the church ready to bring the core message of salvation and renewal to those who come to her for practical help? Can she deliver the required combination package of the Gospel of salvation and the gospel of social service simultaneously? Peter said in Act 3:6, when he was ask for money: "I have no money at all, but I give you what I have …"
The Bible warns us strongly against greed, for example in Luke 12:15; and in 2 Peter 2:3 we read "and in their greed they will exploit you with false words..." Translated to our own times we see how we fall prey to all sorts of get-rich-quick products which among other ills entrap the greedy in usurious debt and excessively large mortgages. But, just as in the times of the Judges, a true repentance, which includes a change of personal conduct, must take place.
There is a positive correlation between the changes in the number of Christians in a society and the changes that occur in its corresponding national financial rating. The Church can therefore not legitimately stand back with the attitude that it is up to the world to solve its own problems.
What steps and actions should we expect from the Church?
• It must unmask post-modernism as not providing any fixed moral direction.
• It must unflinchingly regard God's Word as the absolute compass, not as a radar screen from which to pick and choose.
• It must diligently seek methods to enable an effective proclamation of the core message of salvation and renewal of the heart.
• It must unequivocally, yet in compassionate language, warn of the evils of a so-called freedom that recognizes no moral boundaries.
• It must learn to discern the times with wisdom. The Church did not see the present crisis coming.
• It must mobilise fervent prayer campaigns for God's intervention in bringing about the necessary changes in the hearts of men.
• It must engage in effective practical social ministry, offered explicitly in the loving name of Jesus Christ, wherever it is needed, but always in combination with her core-message proclamation.
• It must evangelise.
• It must educate and warn Christians against risky financial products and motivations in order that they live in conformance to God's principles.
What steps and actions should be expected from Christians?
• Fruitful (spiritual) lives that are lived in conformance to God's Biblical principles.
• Confession of the sins of greed and the desire for self-gratification.
• Demonstration in daily life that our faith is real and that it is at work in our life.
• Prayer for revival so that God's principles and standards become more widely followed.
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