Published July 28, 2009

Paul's Epistle...
"The Divergence"

Do you ever wake up in the morning, read the paper or listen to the news and think, "What happened? Why are things so changed from the way they used to be?"

Perhaps a better question, more to the point, would be, "Why has our society veered so extremely away from Godly principles?" In the space of my lifetime, our society seems to have gone from endorsing and respecting Christianity to merely being tolerant of it, to, today, being openly antagonistic toward it. Why are Godly principles no longer endorsed but now are openly repudiated in society and in the halls of government?

Someone commented to me the other morning, "I've never spiritually sensed such an overwhelming degree of evil from the government in Washington as I do now." Christians are feeling disenfranchised from their government because of the decidedly anti-Christian policies of the ruling party. Abortion is not only tolerated, it's actually encouraged. The name of Jesus may not be spoken in many public settings. A lifestyle the Bible calls an "abomination" is openly encouraged, endorsed and, incredibly, even officially celebrated. Christian principles upon which our nation and our society were built are falling by the wayside, ridiculed and repudiated by those in charge. And the list grows every day. You can be sure that if all those government buildings that have Scripture quotations chiseled in the stonework were being built today, those quotations would be missing, possibly replaced by some secular or New Age mantra.

None of this should come as any surprise to the Christian. Long ago, Paul wrote to Timothy, "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God..." (2 Timothy 3:1-4). Does that sound like today? You could probably pick out at least one example of each of those evils from the headlines in today's paper.

But Paul then instructed Timothy, "...from such people turn away."  Turn away!

It's as if we are seeing before our eyes a great divergence. The world is veering sharply in the direction of sin. Christians should be turning away from that, holding firm to the unchanging truth of God, as expressed in God's Holy Word. The "great divide" between things worldly and things holy is getting greater.

The problem is that too many professing Christians are just going along for the ride and simply accepting society's ever-more-worldly paradigms. The Barna Research Group found, for example, that divorce rates among Christians are virtually the same as among non-Christians. And, in one of the saddest commentaries I've seen on this matter, Barna wrote, "...of more than 70 other moral behaviors we study, when we compare Christians to non-Christians we rarely find substantial differences..."

If Christians are just like anyone else, what incentive would anyone have to become one? Is that one reason why so many don't? Have Christians conceded the moral and spiritual high ground? Have they chosen to "go along" so they can "get along?" Or have Christians simply been lulled by society into accepting whatever comes along, even if it veers away from Godly principles?

One of the best-known theologians of the last century, Francis Schaeffer, once said, "Tell me what the world is saying today and I'll tell you what the church will be saying in seven years." What an indictment of the church at large! But think about it. You can probably easily come up with some things that were once taboo in your church but which now are accepted.

Although logic dictates that we must adapt to a changing society if we're going to live in it, we must draw the line when "change" involves the principles of God's word, which are unchanging, just as God is unchanging (Mal. 3:6). As the world becomes more worldly, Christians must become even more Christlike.

In the Upper Room, Christ prayed for His disciples, saying to the Father, "I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one" (John 17:15). The Lord knew we would have to live our lives among sinners. But He prayed that we wouldn't allow ourselves to succumb to the world's evil ways. Nevertheless, "As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world" (John 17:18). We have a mission and a purpose – to live for Christ, no matter what the world does.

In that prayer, Jesus also prayed that Christians would be sanctified "by Your truth. Your word is truth" (John 17:17). To "sanctify" carries the idea of "setting apart" and, in fact, implies "holy." Although in the world and interacting with it, we are to be different from it, just as Christ interacted with sinners but remained holy. We are to be a holy people, separated from sinful lifestyles (see Lev. 20:26). The Hebrew word for it is "Qadosh," which means holy, set apart, distinct.

Perhaps what we're seeing in this radical divergence of society away from Christian ways is something God has permitted as another loving, last-minute "wake-up call" for Christians. Perhaps God is saying, "Look, the time is short, the harvest is near; this is the time you must stand up for Me and live totally for me, even as the world around you is turning more and more openly to sin. This is when it is more important than ever for you to trust in Me completely. It is more important than ever to win as many as you can to Christ. Because the greatest divergence – when ‘the angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous' [Matt 13:49] – is about to happen."

Until then, society will do what it will. But this most definitely is the time for Christians to repudiate the world's ways and steadfastly to affirm, as did Joshua, "...as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Josh 24:15).

- Paul

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